September 16, 2011

Saturday, 16 September 1911


At breakfast in the morning, Amundsen asked Johansen why he and Prestrud had been so late coming in the night before. Johansen flew into a rage and criticised Amundsen for his behaviour out on the Barrier, saying that a leader ought not to become separated from his men. "I don't call it an expedition. It's panic." [1] There was a horrified silence, for Johansen's words, Bjaaland wrote, were "best left unsaid." [2]

"It was not only our return yesterday that he found indefensible in the highest degree," Amundsen wrote in his diary, "but also much else I had taken the liberty of doing as leader in the course of time. The gross and unforgivable part of his statements is that they were made in everybody's hearing. The bull must be taken by the horns; I must make an example immediately." [3]

Preferring not to answer Johansen's outburst directly, Amundsen instead explained his actions to the others, that Helmer Hanssen and Stubberud had frostbitten feet and needed to be got indoors as soon as possible. Prestrud though, who was also frostbitten, felt let down and supported Johansen.

Privately, Amundsen felt that there was now no question of taking Johansen to the Pole, and after lunch, he announced that Prestrud and Johansen would instead go eastwards as a subsidiary party to explore King Edward VII Land, with Prestrud leading.

Johansen demanded a written order, and, at supper, Amundsen delivered it. "After your statements to me this morning," it read, "I find it in accordance with the expedition's interests to dismiss you from participating in the journey to the South Pole." [4] Later in the evening, Amundsen called the men one-by-one into the galley, where he requested from each a declaration of loyalty.

It was, though, Amundsen felt, "a sad end to our splendid unity." [5] "I have," he added, "provisionally fixed our departure for 15 October."


[1] Roland Huntford, Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.410.
[2] Olav Bjaaland, diary, 17 September, 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.410.
[3] Roald Amundsen, diary, [17 September, 1911], quoted by Roland Huntford in The Amundsen Photographs (London : Hodder & Stoughton, c1987), p.116.
[4] Roald Amundsen, letter to Hjalmar Johansen, 17 September, 1911, quoted in Johansen's Dagbok fra Sydpolen (Vågemot Miniforlag, 2007), p.21.
[5] Roald Amundsen, diary, 17 September, 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in Race for the South Pole : the expedition diaries of Scott and Amundsen (London : Continuum, c2010), p.48.

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