April 17, 2011

Monday, 17 April 1911


The only scientific work done by the men at Framheim was the routine meteorological observations. "Our plan is one, one and again one alone," Amundsen wrote in his diary, "to reach the pole. For that goal, I have decided to throw everything else aside. We shall do what we can without colliding with this plan. If we were to have a night watch, we would have to have a light burning the whole time. In one room, as we have, this would be worrying for most of us, and make us weak. What concerns me is that we all live properly in all respects during the winter. Sleep and eat well, so that we have full strength and are in good spirits when spring arrives to fight towards the goal which we must attain at any cost." [1]

The Fram arrived in Buenos Aires. Due to ill-feeling in Norway against Amundsen's behaviour, the Government had hesitated to ask the Storting for further grants, and the expedition was completely broke -- Nilsen did not even have the money to hire a tender to take him ashore, as all spare change had been confiscated at the Bay of Whales for soldering and sealing paraffin tanks.

Don Pedro Christophersen generously agreed to pay Amundsen's bills.

But, Nilsen wrote to Alexander Nansen, the expedition's business manager, "It was not fair to draw too big a draft on one man. [At] home they can naturally say that the expedition went South in all secrecy, and therefore it can manage as best it can. But what is one to do? Norway spends money now and then on vessels to represent the country. Is Fram not the best vessel that can be sent out? I won't pretend to say that there is anybody on board particularly qualified to represent the country, but who doesn't know Fram? Norway can scarcely be better known than by its flag flying the the world's greatest harbours from the gaff of the world's most famous ship."

"Every man from chief to cook has done, and will do everything for the expedition to reach its goal. It is therefore not exactly encouraging to hear in the first port of call that the country has washed its hands of us." [2]

Don Pedro payed for the refit Fram needed, and Nilsen left on 8th June as planned for his oceanographic cruise between South America and Southern Africa.

That part of the ocean was, as Fridtjof Nansen wrote to Nilsen, "so to say, all an unknown world, where previous expeditions have ... done little or nothing of significance. It would be splendid if Norwegians could also show themselves superior in this field. In addition, it will show clearly that the Fram expedition is not only a sporting stunt, as some say, but also a scientific enterprise worthy of respect." [3]


[1] Roald Amundsen, diary, 18 April, 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.380.
[2] Thorvald Nilsen, letter to Alexander Nansen, [date not given], quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.376-377.
[3] Fridtjof Nansen, letter to Thorvald Nilsen, [date not given], quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.377.

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