October 19, 2011

Thursday, 19 October 1911


The loaded sledges ready to start. [1]

Amundsen, Bjaaland, Wisting, Hassel, and Helmer Hanssen set off for the Pole.

"The departure took place without much ceremony," Prestrud recalled, "and with the smallest possible expenditure of words. A hearty grasp of the hand serves the purpose quite as well on such occasions. I accompanied them to the place we called the starting-point, on the south side of the bay. After a final 'Good luck' to our Chief and comrades -- as sincere a wish as I have ever bestowed upon anyone -- I cinematographed the caravan, and very soon after it was out of sight. Those fellows went southward at a great pace, Helmer Hanssen’s quick-footed team leading as usual." [2]

"At long last we managed to get off," Amundsen wrote with relief in his diary.

A still from the cinematograph of the departure for the Pole. [3]

"-- Yes, we'll see!" Johansen wrote the next day. "The Chief said goodbye to me, and I wished him good luck. I have told him the truth, and that is not always the easiest thing to hear. That is why I am in disgrace, but I must bear it."

Johansen thought that the loads were too heavy, with a resulting decrease in the dogs' pulling power, and that it would be a smaller party of three or even two men that would make it to the Pole. "It wouldn't surprise me if we saw Hassel and Bjaaland here in a couple of months. Maybe Wisting too." [4]

"The fog came down after we had covered a little ground," Amundsen continued. "HH [Helmer Hanssen] ran first and set a course with his compass. For some reason we ran too far East, and into an unknown maze of cracks and crevasses. I sat together with W [Wisting]. His sledge was last. Suddenly a large piece of the surface fell away next to the sledge and exposed a gruesome abyss -- big enough to swallow us all. Luckily we were so far to the side that we were saved. We understood from the surroundings that we had strayed too far to the East, and therefore set a course directly East by the compass (S. by W. true). That soon brought us within sight of some flags, and a short time afterwards reached the place where we shot 'Kaisa' on our last trip [8 September] -- 20.2 nautical miles. We managed splendidly in our improved tent. Although we were five, there is plenty of space." [5]

At Framheim, Prestrud almost immediately began his task of mapping the Bay of Whales, but he was much-delayed by bad weather.


[1] Roald Amundsen Bildearkivet, Nasjonalbiblioteket. This photograph is dated "20-10-1911" by the NB. See note [3] below.
[2] Kristian Prestrud, "The Eastern Sledge Journey", in Roald Amundsen's The South Pole, ch.15. Note that the date here is given as 20th October; Hinks in "The Observations of Amundsen and Scott at the South Pole (The Geographical Journal, April 1944, p.169) states that it should be the 19th.
[3] Riksarkivet (National Archives of Norway). The caption notes that no photographs were taken of the departure; the photo in note [1] may have been earlier in the day.
[4] Hjalmar Johansen, diary, 21 October, 1911, published as Dagbok fra Sydpolen (Vågemot Miniforlag, 2007), p.28.
[5] Roald Amundsen, diary, 20 October, 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in Race for the South Pole : the Expedition Diaries of Scott and Amundsen (London : Continuum, c2010), p.79.

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