November 19, 2011

Sunday, 19 November 1911


"H[elmer] H[anssen] and Bj[aaland] had found an excellent route up the glacier," wrote Amundsen. "There were many crevasses and chasms, but we found good [snow] bridges everywhere. The glacier ... was fairly steep in a number of places, and relaying with double teams had to be resorted to. We got a good photo of one of these 'claw' drives." [1]

They pitched camp at two in the afternoon, having climbed about 1,500 feet, below the upper ice falls. Amundsen then scouted ahead with Bjaaland and Helmer Hanssen to find a way through "the terribly chaotic crevasses which surround us. Enormous blocks of ice, mighty abysses and wide crevasses blocked the way everywhere. It seemed really rather difficult to find any route ahead, but after a trip of five hours, HH Bj. and myself were able to find a reasonably acceptable pass at the head of the glacier…. Calm, absolutely calm, crystal clear and boiling hot all day."

"It was a grand and imposing sight we had," Amundsen recalled later, "when we came out on the ridge under which -- far below -- our tent stood. Surrounded on all sides by huge crevasses and gaping chasms, it could not be said that the site of our camp looked very inviting. The wildness of the landscape seen from this point is not to be described; chasm after chasm, crevasse after crevasse, with great blocks of ice scattered promiscuously about, gave one the impression that here Nature was too powerful for us. Here no progress was to be thought of. It was not without a certain satisfaction that we stood there and contemplated the scene. The little dark speck down there -- our tent -- in the midst of this chaos, gave us a feeling of strength and power." [2]

"We were 8 miles up," Bjaaland wrote far more succinctly, "and a hard march it was." [3]

Amundsen guessed that they would reach the plateau the next evening. "'Fain would I know, what I once may see over the mountains high,' someone said, quoting a famous Norwegian poem, and someone else finished it for him. "'Only snow will meet the eye.' It came out drily," Amundsen added, "and caused roars of mirth." [4]


[1] Roald Amundsen, diary, 20 November, 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in Race for the South Pole (London : Continuum, c2010), p.135-136.
[2] Roald Amundsen, The South Pole, ch.11.
[3] Olav Bjaaland, diary, 20 November, 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.448.
[4] From the poem "Undrer mig på, hvad jeg får at se" by Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson: "Undrer mig på, hvad jeg får at se / over de høje fjælde? / øjet møder nok bare sne".

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