April 26, 2011

Wednesday, 26 April 1911


Nansen in Bergen, around 1910. [1]

Feelings against Amundsen ran so high that Nansen defended him in a letter to The Times: "I have had much to do with Amundsen, and on all occasions ... he always acted as a man, and my firm conviction is that an unfair act of any kind would be entirely alien to his nature.... Fearing that [his supporters] might advise him not to go to the Antarctic, he decided not to tell any of us.... And in this he was perhaps right ... he thought he had no right to make us co-responsible and so has taken the whole responsibility upon himself. I cannot help thinking that this is a manly way of proceeding.... As regards the question of whether Amundsen had a right to enter [another explorer's territory] ... [it must] be remembered that the bases of operations of Scott and Amundsen lie far apart, there being about the same distance between them as between Spitsbergen and Franz Josef Land. I am certain that not even the keenest monopolist would venture to suggest that it would be unfair to go to Franz Josef Land on an expedition in quest of the North Pole, because another expedition with the same object in view was already on its way to Spitsbergen." [2]

Leon wrote a month later to Don Pedro, "When my brother received your charitable offer before his departure from Norway, he had no idea he would be compelled to take advantage of it to the extent that now has been necessary; he felt convinced that his supporters and the Norwegian people would sympathise with the decision he had made to go South, when his reasons were so strong and good ... and he believed definitely he could count on the necessary support to carry out his journey. In that belief he remains today."

"He does not know what I know, that his actions have been condemned in nearly all quarters.... It is a fact which in the highest degree will hurt his sense of honour and sow bitterness in his mind when he learns about it." [3]


[1] Nansen Electronic Photographic Archive, Nasjonalbiblioteket.
[2] The Times, 26 April, 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.378.
[3] Leon Amundsen, letter to Don Pedro Christophersen, 21 June 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.379.

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