Amundsen's Fram expedition

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The Fram in the drift ice

The Fram Expedition (1910–1912) , led by the Norwegian polar explorer Roald Amundsen, was a research trip to the Antarctic with the aim of reaching the geographic South Pole for the first time . Amundsen drove with the Fram , which had already been used twice on expeditions to the Arctic, to the Bay of the Whales , where he brought equipment and dogs ashore and set up his winter quarters. From there he pulled a dog sled from his Framheim base to the South Pole, which he reached on December 14, 1911 35 days before his competitor Robert Falcon Scott from the British Terra Nova expedition . With that he had won the “race for the pole”.

The expedition was to go first into the arctic waters to reach the North Pole ; However, when Amundsen learned in the fall of 1909 that both Frederick Cook and Robert Edwin Peary claimed to have reached the Pole, he changed the goal, which donors and the public were only informed about after his departure.


Previous expeditions

James Clark Ross

The Ross Sea had traditionally been the working area of ​​the British Antarctic expeditions. This tradition was founded by James Clark Ross , who between 1839 and 1843 made three trips to the Antarctic with the ships HMS Erebus and HMS Terror , advancing further south than any human before, discovering and sometimes naming many topographical features, including the Ross Sea itself, Ross Island , the Great Ice Barrier and the Bay of Whales , the starting point of the Fram expedition. Ross' tradition was continued by the Discovery Expedition from 1901 to 1904, the first British Antarctic expedition since Ross and thus the so-called " Hero's Age of Antarctic Research ", the Nimrod Expedition and the Terra Nova Expedition , Amundsen's main competition in Austria South Pole was.

However, from 1895 there was also Norwegian activity in the area. This year the Antarctic , a Norwegian whaling ship, landed briefly at Cape Adare , the northern tip of Victoria Land . A member of this landing group, the Norwegian Carsten Egeberg Borchgrevink , then traveled at his own expense to the Sixth International Congress of Geographers in London and offered to lead an expedition that was to be the first to winter on the Antarctic continent. It convinced the participants of the congress - also through the moss samples they brought with them, which proved life under the Antarctic ice cover - and thus rekindled their interest in scientific research into Antarctica. In the spring of 1898 the publisher George Newnes (1851-1910) offered him to finance his expedition in return for a gripping experience report. This expedition, the Southern Cross Expedition , wintered for the first time in Antarctica and advanced 70 kilometers south on the Ross Ice Shelf. Borchgrevink showed that the Ice Barrier could not only be viewed as an obstacle, but also as a way to the south, and he also demonstrated the usefulness of dogs and skis in the Antarctic. The expedition was already fully equipped according to the new "Norwegian School of Polar Research".

This “new school” had been founded ten years earlier by Fridtjof Nansen when he crossed Greenland from east to west in the summer of 1888 , not only establishing Norwegian polar research and becoming a figure of identification for many Norwegians, but also opened up new avenues in technology. Instead of the conventional heavy sledges, he used lighter models that ran on skis. He also recognized the need to develop his own clothes, tents and cooking equipment and for the first time compiled food according to scientific criteria. Dogs, the low weight of the equipment and the mobility of the team in the field were also important. The core of polar research, however, was now the use of skis, for which Norwegians had the best prerequisites, since skiing as a means of transport had been part of the culture of the Scandinavian peoples for thousands of years - the word ski comes from old Norwegian. This expedition made such a big impression on the young Roald Amundsen that in 1903 he set off on his own expedition with the Gjøa , which led him as the first man through the entire Northwest Passage . This voyage had an impact on the Fram expedition, as Amundsen was able to deepen the basics of polar research, which he had learned as second helmsman on the Belgica , and supplement it with Eskimo knowledge. During the Gjøa expedition, Amundsen made his first experiences with dogs and dog sleds and studied the techniques of the Eskimos, such as igloo building or making clothes.

Fram expedition

Fridtjof Nansen

Back in Norway, Amundsen began planning an expedition to the Arctic Basin , during which he wanted to drift trapped in the ice for four or five years while reaching the still undiscovered North Pole. The latter, Huntford suspects, was his primary objective while scientific exploration of the Arctic Ocean was pushed forward to raise more donations. For this purpose he asked Fridtjof Nansen for the Fram . This ship was state property, but since Nansen was the first instance of polar research in Norway and had hopes of a final expedition himself, Amundsen thought it necessary to ask his role model for clearance, which Nansen also granted him. On November 10, 1908, he publicly announced his plan, the day after he received 20,000 crowns from the royal couple. After the Norwegian Parliament had approved Amundsen to partially repay his debts from the Gjøa expedition, he set off for the United States to find additional sources of money through a lecture tour. At the beginning of 1909 Amundsen was able to raise a quarter of the necessary funds, but now the donations dried up. On February 6, 1909, however, the Storthing granted him 75,000 crowns and allowed him to use the Fram for his own purposes.

In the first week of September 1909, news reached Amundsen that both Cook and Peary claimed to have reached the North Pole. These claims are controversial today, and following the first news of Cook's success, which he received on September 1, Amundsen said the news would "not affect his plans in any way." But the news he received on September 7th about Peary shook him and prompted him to act. He decided to "postpone his original plan for a year or two in order to try to raise the still missing funds [for subsequent exploration of the Arctic Basin]." When Amundsen made this decision is unknown. However, a letter with which he ordered sled dogs from Greenland to Denmark proves that he was determined by 9 September at the latest. Amundsen hoped that the prestigious acquisition of the South Pole would provide better opportunities for the acquisition of funds for the "actual" expedition to the North Pole and a way of preventing a loss of reputation. “If I didn't want to lose my reputation as a researcher, I had to achieve a spectacular victory in one way or another.” So he decided to start a new company.

Robert F. Scott

On September 13th, Amundsen learned that Robert Falcon Scott was planning to set off on his own Antarctic expedition in August. The next day, Amundsen announced that the start of his expedition would be postponed to July 1, 1910. The reason given was the alleged delay in delivery of the diesel engine; in fact, time was needed for special work because of the changed destination.

Amundsen's change of plan was still kept a secret, not wanting to share the benefit of knowing competition with Scott. On the one hand, he was personally unsympathetic to Scott, on the other hand, national interests played a role, as the prestige success against the British Empire would have been spectacular. Amundsen also kept his plans secret because he feared that the Norwegian government might ban his expedition. A competition for prestigious goals with Great Britain was not politically opportune. Amundsen also feared that Nansen might forbid him to use the Fram . Nansen's wife had since died and he was no longer the Norwegian consul in London, so he could have resumed his postponed expedition plans. Amundsen also assumed that the storthing and private donors could prevent the expedition. Another, more tactical, motivation was that if a foreign rival became known, Scott likely would have received additional funding. He had no doubts about the fairness of his approach. Amundsen assessed the Terra Nova Expedition as completely different from his own expedition, because he himself was primarily concerned with scientific goals and reaching the South Pole was only secondary. According to his account, a public announcement of Amundsen's plans could hardly have influenced Scott's planning. Other expeditions that were in Antarctica at that time did not aim to reach the South Pole anyway (see list of Antarctic expeditions ). Amundsen informed only two people of his decision: his brother, who was to go public after Amundsen's departure from Madeira, and Thorvald Nilsen, who, as shipmaster and captain of the Fram , had to know the true aim of the expedition for his preparations.


When selecting the team members, Amundsen paid attention to various personal aspects, including integration into the social environment, success in the work area that had to do with the polar journey, curiosity and energy. According to Huntford, he completely switched off feelings when making the selection. In addition to professional qualities such as the greatest possible experience in polar research, mastery of skiing and driving dog sleds, he required his men to be used to loneliness and hard work outdoors.

Amundsen received many applications. As deputy commander, he initially selected Ole Engelstad (1876-1909), a frigate captain in the Norwegian Navy. However, while testing a balloon, Engelstad was struck by lightning and died; Thorvald Nilsen (1881–1940) moved up. Olav Bjaaland came on board after he happened to meet Amundsen in Lübeck and in a conversation about expeditions had indicated that he would also like to take part in an expedition one day. As Bjaaland was an excellent skier and carpenter, Amundsen took him with him. Another member of the expedition was Helmer Hanssen , who had already accompanied Amundsen on the Gjøa expedition and whom Amundsen valued as a dog handler. In order to have a good cook, Amundsen also hired Adolf Lindstrøm (1866–1939), who had also been on the Gjøa . In the summer of 1909 he met Oscar Wisting , a naval gunner who worked in the shipyard in Horten on the Fram . Wisting was not a very good skier and had no experience with dogs, but he was adaptable, willing to learn and pragmatic - and Amundsen needed men who would submit to him without difficulty. He hired the seal catcher Andreas Beck as an ice pilot. Amundsen refused to take a doctor on the expedition. He would have liked to have his confidante and agent in Tromsø with him, the pharmacist Fritz Zapffe, but since he was unable to attend, he sent the second helmsman Gjertsen and Wisting to short courses in dentistry and surgery.

In the fall of 1908, Amundsen received an application from Hjalmar Johansen , who had been to the Arctic with Nansen and was a good dog handler. However, he had become an alcoholic after the expedition with Nansen. In addition, Amundsen feared the elder Johansen, who was better at skiing and very ambitious, might threaten his authority. Since Johansen Nansen had saved his life in the Arctic, the latter insisted that Amundsen take him with him, and Amundsen had to submit.


Funding and equipment

On February 9, 1909, the Storthing decided to lend Amundsen the Fram for the expedition and to provide a sum of 75,000  Norwegian kroner for the necessary repairs and improvements, and it had already repaid some of Amundsen's debts from the Gjøa expedition. Many companies donated goods, and the Norwegian Navy also provided equipment. Additional funds were made available by the royal couple (20,000 crowns) and by private individuals, the most prominent of which was Don Pedro Christophersen. The Norwegian, who lives in Argentina, paid for all expenses during the Fram's stay in South America.

After the claims of Cook and Peary to reach the North Pole became known, the sources of money dried up. The Storthing also refused to increase Amundsen's funds by a further 25,000 crowns. Amundsen was faced with a deficit of 150,000 crowns. He wasn't particularly concerned about a balanced budget, however, because he knew that by the time he reached the South Pole, everything would be taken. So he took out loans where he could get them and put a mortgage on his own house for 25,000 kroner.

To get a sufficient number of sled dogs, Amundsen traveled to Copenhagen , where he bought 100  Greenland dogs from the Royal Greenland Trading Company , which were to be delivered to Denmark in July 1910. Amundsen believed that dogs were superior to ponies (Scott's main means of transport).

The prefabricated hut that was taken away, which was 7.8 meters long and 3.9 meters wide, was built on Amundsen's property in Norway and later repacked part by part to be set up again in the Antarctic. It had two rooms, one of which served as a kitchen and one as a bedroom, dining and living room. Above it was an attic for storing supplies. The coastal group's sleds were 3.6 meters long and initially weighed 165 pounds before their weight was reduced to an average of 53 pounds over the winter. The skis are made of hickory wood, which is elastic and hard. The length was 1.8 meters.

Goals and plan

Route of the Scott and Amundsen expeditions

Amundsen tried to get all the available literature and, in conjunction with his own polar experience, worked out a precise plan.

The main goal was to reach the South Pole, science only played a minor role. Still, Amundsen planned to take as many measurements as possible along the way, mostly meteorological. In addition, the Fram was to carry out extensive oceanographic measurements in the Atlantic, which Amundsen planned with Bjørn Helland-Hansen and used as a pretext to be able to board the Fram in Norway instead of, as previously announced, only in San Francisco .

According to Amundsen's plans, the Fram should leave Norway by mid-August and head for Madeira as the only stopover . From there she was supposed to drive around the Cape of Good Hope and advance into the Ross Sea to the “Great Ice Barrier”, which should be reached around January 15th. About ten men were to be dropped off as a coastal group at the Bay of the Whales and set up a base, while the Fram were to return to Buenos Aires and take measurements in the Atlantic . In October she was supposed to return south and pick up the coastal group again.

In the meantime, once the hut had been erected and the supplies had been brought ashore, this group would store food and fuel in depots as far south as possible. With the end of this activity, winter would have come, which should be spent working on the equipment. Next spring the base should be vacated as early as possible to arrive at the South Pole before Scott. Amundsen wanted to go straight south from the Bay of the Whales, following the same meridian whenever possible .

The Whale Bay was chosen as a storage location for several reasons. On the one hand, it was further south than any other point of the barrier that could be reached by ship, which was important for the following sleigh ride, as almost ten percent of the distance could be saved, on the other hand, Amundsen could from here the conditions and the surface with which he was it would have to do get to know beforehand. In addition, according to Ross' and Shackleton's previous reports, many seals and penguins lived in Whale Bay , so food supplies were always assured. The bay was also a favorable location for meteorological observations on the barrier, as the surrounding land had no influence on the conditions. Finally, the place was easily accessible by ship. The barrier was generally believed to float on the water, which was also confirmed by Shackleton's report of severe ice breaks. However, Amundsen came to the conclusion that it must rest on a foundation such as small islands or skerries , as the area surrounding the Bay of Whales had largely remained unchanged since Ross' expedition of 1843/44. Amundsen's result was correct, even if his reasoning was incorrect. He saw himself confirmed, but today it has been proven that the barrier is an ice shelf and thus floats on the water and is connected to the land via a glacier. The bay's stability is due to its location in the slipstream of Roosevelt Island . In 1928 the camp disappeared and probably broke off the shelf with an iceberg.

The Fram

The Fram ( Norwegian "forward") was built in 1892 by Colin Archer as a ship that could withstand the Arctic pack ice. The three-masted schooner had already proven itself several times; Fridtjof Nansen and Otto Sverdrup had used the ship on their Arctic expeditions. The Fram is 39 meters long and eleven meters wide and has a volume of 807 gross and 440 net register tons.

On March 9, 1909, Amundsen asked the naval shipyard in Horten to repair the ship and make the necessary changes. The most important change was to replace the steam engine with a 180 hp diesel engine. This made the Fram the first polar ship with a diesel engine, which on the one hand was practical for maneuvering between the ice floes and on the other hand also saved personnel - one man was enough to operate it.


Key data
event date
Departure from Norway 0August 9, 1910
Arrival in the Bay of the Whales January 14, 1911
The Fram leaves Framheim February 15, 1911
End of depot trips April 11, 1911
False start 0September 8, 1911
Beginning of the south journey October 20, 1911
Arrival at the pole December 14, 1911
Fram back in Framheim 0January 8, 1912
End of the south journey January 26, 1912
Arrival in Hobart, Australia 0March 7, 1912

From Norway to Antarctica

The Fram had been anchored in Christiania since the repairs were finished in May 1910 , only to be loaded until the beginning of June. On June 3rd they set out to sea. The first destination was Amundsen's house to invite the prefabricated hut. On June 7th, the Fram lifted anchor again. Before she finally set off for Antarctica, she should take a trip around the British Isles and then back to Norway. The ostensible purpose was to conduct oceanographic surveys; however, the engine and crew of the Fram should be checked. The planned route had to be shortened considerably because of the bad weather and an engine breakdown; on July 10th they called at Bergen , from where they went on to Kristiansand . The last goods such as sledges and skis were loaded here, as well as 97 Greenland dogs. Now lieutenants Gjertsen and Prestrud were also informed of the plan to go south. They were enthusiastic. On August 9th, all the necessary preparations were made and the Fram set out for Madeira. Johansen's diary suggests that the voyage soon turned into a bad mood, as the crew sensed that the officers were hiding something from them and the camaraderie among the men was not very good either.

In Madeira, which the ship reached on September 6th, the supplies were replenished, namely the supply of fresh water was replenished. Amundsen's brother Leon came on board to receive the latest news from the outside world; including messages to Nansen, the King of Norway, Håkon VII , as well as various donors and a telegram to Scott, which Leon posted on October 3rd in Christiania and which Scott reached on October 12th when he left the ship in Melbourne. At the beginning of October, Leon also went public with Amundsen's change of plan. On September 9th, everything was ready for departure, and the crew gathered on deck, where Amundsen informed them of his plans and asked each man for further assistance - he earned unanimous approval. Towards evening they started south. With the end of the uncertainty, the mood on board improved.

The next stop was supposed to be a Norwegian whaling station on the Kerguelen , but due to the bad weather at the end of November the Fram could not approach the islands. Otherwise the journey was uneventful; the men studied all the books about previous Antarctic expeditions that they could find in the on-board library, well-stocked with gifts. On December 1, Amundsen announced the members of the landing team - Prestrud, Johansen, Hanssen, Hassel, Wisting, Bjaaland, Stubberud and Lindstrøm would accompany him. On January 1st, the first iceberg came into view, on the following day the expedition reached the drift ice belt that stretches around the Antarctic and which the Fram was able to cross easily within three and a half days thanks to the evaluation of the situation in previous expeditions. On January 11th, the Ross Ice Shelf was sighted; three days later the whale bay was reached.

Arrival and depot facility

Group photo of the expedition members before their departure to Antarctica.

After arriving on January 14, 1911, the Fram was moored at the ice foot of the barrier and Amundsen undertook an initial exploratory tour with Nilsen, Prestrud and Stubberud to research the conditions and find a suitable camp site. After they had found a suitable depression, two men built the prefabricated hut there, while the other members of the coastal group from January 15 the dogs, the number of which had increased from 96 to 116 since Norway with 20 newly born animals, as well as equipment and Bringing supplies ashore by sledge. The hut was finished on January 27th, and together with the surrounding camp it was later christened “ Framheim ”. The goods were stored in a depot 600 meters away, along with the meat of the seals and penguins that had been killed. On February 4, the Terra Nova came to visit on her way back to McMurdo Sound, after she had not been able to call at her destination, Edward VII Land . She brought news from Scott, including his snowmobiles. They worried Amundsen until he was at the Pole, as he could not assess their advantages.

On February 10, 1911, Amundsen, Prestrud, Johansen and Hanssen set off with three sleds. As was customary, one of the men always ran in front of the first sledge to keep the dogs on course. It was steered by the driver of the first sled using a compass. With 18 dogs, they set off south to explore the immediate area, to test the equipment and speed and, in some cases, to begin with the southern transport of the goods. On February 14th they reached 80 ° S and stored the supplies they had carried with them - half a ton of food - in a depot. Two days later they returned to Framheim, from where the Fram had already left. During the journey, the group found that the barrier was easily passable and, under the given weather conditions, was comparable to the winter conditions in some regions of Norway. However, various deficiencies in the equipment were also identified, which the Norwegians had to fix - the most urgent until the next trip, the less important over the winter.

On February 22nd, a new group set out to set up more depots. This time all eight men of the coastal group came with us except Lindström, the cook; they had seven sleds and 42 dogs. On February 27, the already established depot was reached at 80 ° south, on March 3, they arrived at 81 °, where a new depot with half a ton of dog food was established. Bjaaland, Hassel and Stubberud returned here. At 82 ° S, which was reached on March 8, a further 680 kilograms of supplies were stored, mainly dog ​​food. Here the group turned around, although they had initially wanted to go to 83 °. The sledges were overloaded, however, and the long journey, the onset of winter and the difficult surface with fresh snow and crevasses exhausted the dogs so much that Amundsen even had to leave his sled behind when he started his way back on March 10th. A total of eight dogs died on this trip, which, according to Amundsen, was mainly due to the cold. There was a certain amount of strife among the men. On March 22nd, the group returned to Framheim.

On March 31st, seven men under Johansen's command set out with six sledges and 36 dogs and returned on April 11th. On this last voyage, they set up a depot with around 1200 kilograms of seal meat at 80 ° S, which now contained over two tons of supplies.


Winter camp plan
Framheim's underground fuel depot

Large numbers of seals and penguins were hunted by the onset of winter in order to survive the winter well; the 60 tons of meat should be enough for the men and 110 dogs. In order to have to go outside as rarely as possible, most of the storage rooms were connected by a network of underground chambers and tunnels. In several of these rooms, workshops, a sauna and an observatory were set up.

During the winter, the items of equipment tried out on the depot trips were adapted, both sleds and personal equipment. The weight of the sled could be reduced from 50 to 35 kilograms. Skis, sleigh boxes, boots, tents and almost all other equipment were overhauled. In the remaining free time there were courses, people read, played darts or whist . Amundsen describes the weather as excellent, with lulls or light breezes, while Scott had stormy weather that kept him from his work. The end of the work was foreseeable from mid-August, and from 23 August the loaded sleds, each weighing 880 pounds, were ready at the launch site.

The trip to the South Pole

A false start

It was important for Amundsen to leave soon; Because he feared the British snowmobiles and wanted to gain as large a lead as possible, he planned to leave Framheim on August 24th. That was far too early as the southern spring had barely started at this point. By the beginning of September, the temperature had risen so much that Amundsen decided to start the journey south. On September 8th, after some postponements due to bad weather, eight men set out with seven sleds and 90 dogs; they carried supplies for ninety days. However, you soon noticed that you had left too early - just three days later the temperature fell by almost 30 ° C to -56 ° C overnight, and the dogs were noticeably worse. Amundsen decided to drive only to the depot at 80 °, to store the supplies and equipment there and to turn around. The depot was reached on September 14th. Many dogs were lost on the way back. On the morning of the last day of the return trip, September 16, the temperature rose a little again, but no one knew for how long; so Amundsen ordered to cover the distance without a break. The retreat was completely disorderly, the sleds were up to eight and a half hours apart when they returned. Amundsen, Wisting and Hanssen were the first to arrive, two hours later also Bjaaland and Stubberud. Hassel, who arrived a little later, reported that Johansen and Prestrud were still on the barrier without food or heating material. Prestrud's dogs were so weak that he fell far behind the others. When Johansen noticed this, he waited for him and probably saved his life by fighting his way back to Framheim with him, since Prestrud was already very weak.

When Amundsen asked Johansen about the delay the next morning, Johansen could no longer contain himself and made serious reproaches for Amundsen for leaving the other members of the expedition behind. The company was "no longer an expedition, that's pure panic," and he openly complained about Amundsen's leadership. This criticism was not only based on the events of the previous day. Johansen was also bitter because as an older man he was subordinate to Amundsen. In addition, the alcohol withdrawal bothered him. He also often compared Amundsen to Nansen, with whom he had been in the Arctic. Johansen's words and his claims were a threat to the expedition, and so Amundsen was forced to make an example - he isolated Johansen and Prestrud from the rest of the expedition by reviving his plan, which had previously been rejected twice in a vote, by an additional group .

Only five men were supposed to go south now. The other three - besides Johansen and Prestrud also Stubberud - were to drive east to Edward VII Land under Prestrud's leadership and explore the area around the Bay of Whales. This additional expedition served not only as a punishment for Johansen, but also as a safeguard - if the actual expedition goal was not reached, Amundsen still wanted to be able to show results. Amundsen himself justified the decision by saying that you would get ahead faster with a smaller group and that the deposits would increase in value. Amundsen was lucky that he did not lose any expedition member on the way. He was even able to benefit to the extent that he was able to determine material damage again and the actual pole trip was no longer burdened by the conflict with Johansen.

The south journey

The Antarctic spring did not actually begin until mid-October 1911. Seals and birds have been sighted, and the temperature has remained constant between −20 and −30 ° C (the Antarctic coastal average is −15 to −10 ° C.).

On October 20, Roald Amundsen set off for his second attempt with Bjaaland, Hanssen, Hassel and Wisting. The men had four sledges and 52 dogs, the supplies they carried only reached 80 ° south, where the first depot was waiting. On the way there they came across a field of crevasses, which they could cross without damage. They reached the depot on October 23; Here they took a two-day break so as not to overwork the dogs on the first part of the journey. On October 26th, the group set out again, from here on they set up snow beacons to find their way back on the way back. These beacons were 180 centimeters high and made of blocks of snow. Inside was a piece of paper that gave the number and position of the beacon and the direction and distance of the nearest beacon to the north. On October 31, the depot was reached at 81 ° south, where the men rested again for a day before they reached 82 ° south on November 5, after having crossed a field of ice crevices in thick fog a few days earlier again unscathed. They set out again on November 7th; Before them lay previously unknown territory. The weather was fine and they made excellent progress. On November 9th, 83 ° was reached, where a depot was set up in order to reduce the weight of the sleds and to ensure supplies on the return journey. This is what the men did at every further latitude while they were still on the ice shelf. Dogs that were killed on the way were "frozen" in the depots on the way back. 84 ° were reached on November 13th and 85 ° on November 16th. On November 11th, Amundsen sighted the mountain range, which he baptized "Queen Helena chain"; thus an ascent became inevitable. Amundsen had to quickly find a way over these mountains, but first he decided to follow the meridian further south.

On November 17th, the Norwegians reached the end of the barrier and with it the foothills of the Transantarctic Mountains , after having traveled parallel to the land for a few days. Here the first big problem of the southern trip was waiting: to find an ascent through the mountains to the polar plateau . Nobody had been to this place of transition between the barrier and the mainland before, and so Amundsen had to rely on his luck - he took a route that seemed promising to him for reasons that could no longer be clarified.

Before the ascent began the following day, Amundsen set up another depot in which he stored a third of the supplies, which should be sufficient for a total of 90 days, and explored the beginning of the planned route with Bjaaland, Wisting and Hassel. The first day on the so-called “Mount Betty” involved an ascent of 600 meters, which initially led over some slopes and glaciers. On the evening of the second day, the men camped at an altitude of 1,390 meters above sea level; they seemed to have the hardest part behind them. On November 20, however, they came across a "huge, mighty, absolutely fjord-like glacier from east to west" that lay across their direction - the Axel-Heiberg glacier . They named it after Axel Heiberg , a patron of many Norwegian polar expeditions. Amundsen found that the expected easy way up had been a mistake, because the glacier rises by more than 2500 meters for almost 13 kilometers and is full of crevasses. In order not to waste time and not to demoralize his people, Amundsen decided to attack the glacier anyway.

In the days that followed, many mountains were named in addition to the glacier, for example after Fridtjof Nansen , Don Pedro Christophersen or members of the southern group. After a total of only four days of arduous climbing - Amundsen had expected about ten days - the group reached the polar plateau, where they camped at a place called the “butcher's shop”, as 24 of the 42 remaining dogs were killed here. The ascent, where a dozen dogs often had to be harnessed to a sledge, was done, and the dogs were no longer needed. They were either fed to their fellow species or eaten by the men in order to avoid scurvy from the fresh meat . From here you drove on with the remaining 18 dogs and three sleds. The rations were now sufficient for 60 days because of the reduced number of dogs.

On November 25, after a four-day stay, the men set out again despite the bad weather and found themselves exposed to a snow storm the following day. Despite the poor visibility, they drove on until they found, contrary to their expectations, that the terrain was sloping downwards. When the weather brightened on November 29th, they saw a great glacier running south to north; The following day the group began the ascent after a depot had been set up at the foot at 86 ° 21 ′ to make the sled easier. The glacier was named "Devil's Glacier" because it had a very rugged and difficult to walk surface. On December 1st, after a difficult ascent in the fog with many crevasses, the Norwegians arrived at the top of the glacier, where an icy plateau awaited them, which Amundsen describes as follows: “Our march across this frozen lake was not pleasant. The ground under our feet was obviously hollow, and it sounded like we were walking over empty barrels. First a man broke in, then a couple of dogs; but they all came back up. ”The men called this place“ the devil's ballroom ”. On December 6th the highest point of the trip was reached - 3322 meters above sea level. On the same day they reached 88 ° South. From now on the journey led over a plain. A final depot was set up at 88 ° 25 ′, shortly after Shackleton's southern record.

On December 8, the weather, which had been bad since the "butcher's shop," improved and remained good until the Pole. On the afternoon of December 13th, the journey's destination was reached, at least as precisely as the men could determine at that time. Upon arrival, they planted the Norwegian flag and named the plateau after the Norwegian king and patron of the expedition "Haakon VII Plateau". In addition, excursions were made in the vicinity of the camp in order to get as close as possible to the pole, because evening measurements with a sextant and artificial horizon had resulted in a position of 89 ° 55 ′. In order to take further measurements and to secure the result against possible later doubts, the group covered a further nine kilometers in the direction that the measurements had indicated as south, and camped on December 14 in the best weather. Measurements were then taken at hourly intervals for 24 hours. Much of the equipment was marked with the word "South Pole" and the date to serve as souvenirs. During the measurements during the day it turned out that one was still about two and a half kilometers from the pole - Amundsen sent Bjaaland and Hanssen in the appropriate direction and marked the place with flags, which the Norwegians ultimately had to an accuracy of about 180 meters had determined.

The return trip

Amundsen (left) and his companions Wisting, Hassel and Hanssen in Polheim in December 1911. The photographer was Olav Bjaaland.

Before setting off on December 18, the group set up a replacement tent, which has since become superfluous, over which they planted the Norwegian flag and the Fram pennant . In the tent, Amundsen left a letter to the Norwegian King Haakon VII, along with some equipment, so that Scott or later expeditions could bring him back to Europe in the event of Amundsen's death. According to Raymond Priestley , Amundsen “demoted Scott from researcher to postman”. The camp was named Polheim . On the way there, the polar group had covered 1,400 kilometers, an average daily distance of 25 kilometers. One sled was left behind and the remaining sixteen dogs were divided between the remaining two sleds. On December 24th the first depot was reached at 88 ° 25 ′, two days later the 88th parallel was crossed.

On January 2nd, the Norwegians came to the Devil's Glacier; by finding another way they got to the base of the glacier in just a day and without difficulty. The depot there was initially left out. Amundsen justifies this with bad weather, but Huntford states that Amundsen lost his bearings on this part of the return journey due to a calculation error. When the fog cleared a little later and a member of the group recognized the depot, two men returned and fetched the supplies there. The group was supposed to reach the depot at the “butcher's” on January 5th, but in the fog they only found it by sheer luck, as Wisting had stuck a broken ski in the snow nearby. The location was important not only for supplies, but also to find the way back down the barrier.

The Norwegians initially took the same route as they did on the ascent and then followed the Axel Heiberg Glacier to its confluence with the ice shelf. The distance was longer, but it saved you a considerable amount of time. On January 7, the foot of the glacier, and thus the Ross Ice Shelf, was reached after the group had been on the mainland for 51 days. Some geological samples were collected at Mount Betty, a depot was made with 17 liters of fuel, to show that people had been there, and then turned north again. From now on, the men no longer had to save their energy on the smooth surface of the barrier and began to sprint. On January 13th, the depot was reached at 83 ° south, which represented the last critical point, since, in contrast to all northern camps, it was not marked perpendicular to the north-south axis. On January 17th the depot was reached at 82 °. On January 26, 1912 they returned to Framheim, eleven dogs had survived the trip. On the return journey, an average of 36 kilometers per day had been covered, a total of 99 days had been driven and over 3000 kilometers had been covered.

East trip

According to Amundsen, the east journey to Edward VII Land was also undertaken because the Terra Nova expedition had not been able to undertake the planned journey there last summer. Other reasons, however, were the protection in case Amundsen should not be the first to reach the Pole, and the punishment of Johansen (see above ). Prestrud, the leader of the group, writes:

"My instructions were:

  1. Going to Edward VII Land and doing research there, which time and circumstances allowed.
  2. Explore and map the Bay of Whales and their immediate surroundings.
  3. To keep the station in Framheim in order as much as possible in case we should be forced to spend another winter there. "

The group - consisting of Prestrud, Johansen and Stubberud - should return to Framheim before the Fram could realistically be expected back, Prestrud's deliberations after mid-January. Thereupon he decided to make the trip to the east by Christmas 1911 and to do the work around Framheim in the first half of January. The duration of the trip to the east was limited to six weeks, as you only had two sleds and sixteen dogs to transport equipment and supplies, and there were no depots. On November 8th they set out; the first target was the depot at 80 ° south. This was a detour, but since all supplies, a large part of the personal equipment and various instruments had been stored there in September, it was necessary. The depot was reached on November 12th, whereupon the goods stored there were picked up, including a theodolite , a hypsometer , two barometers , two thermometers and a camera, a total of around 300 kilograms per sled.

On November 16, the 158th meridian was reached. No land had been sighted until then, contradicting the earlier assumption that Edward VII land stretched this far south. In order to reach land nonetheless, and because they did not have the means to seek it further east, the group turned north here. Astronomical observations were made on the trip, and the air pressure, temperature, wind strength and direction as well as the amount of clouds were measured and recorded every day. On November 23, they reached the open sea, where some seals were hunted to replenish supplies, some of whose meat was stored in a depot. The Norwegians drove further northeast and encountered a rise that turned into a plateau on November 28 at about 300 meters. After a few more measurements at the edge of the ice shelf, the group turned east to examine the two peaks belonging to a land mass that had now appeared on the horizon and that Scott had discovered and described in 1902 from aboard the Discovery . In the course of December 3rd the men reached the foot of the more westerly of these mountains. At first they wanted to climb the summit, but the weather was too bad. After it cleared up a little, they set off for the closer of these hills, the summit of which was 510 meters above sea level, and climbed it. On the north side of the neighboring hill they discovered snow-free rock and took geological samples, including those that were covered with moss. On the way back to the camp, the group nearly got caught in a blizzard that reached them when they were back in the tent and prevented the group from going any further east, as planned, as they were due until December 8th Tent got stuck. As the supplies only lasted for a week after the snowstorm, the men had to turn back on December 9th to reach Framheim with the help of the seal meat depot. They returned to their base on December 16.

Two days later, the group left after taking in new supplies and making some minor repairs. The men took a five-day voyage to explore the long eastern arm of the Bay of Whales, where large irregularities in the surface of the ice had previously been observed. They were back in Framheim on December 23rd. On January 1, the men set out on their final voyage to explore the southwest corner of the Bay of Whales. When they returned home on January 11th, the Fram had already been at anchor for two days. A few more days were spent exploring and mapping, and some men paid a visit to the Kainan Maru , a Japanese research vessel that explored the eastern part of the Ross Sea under Nobu Shirase .

Intermittent trips of the Fram

An observation aboard the Fram

After the voyage from Norway to Antarctica (see above ) was over, Amundsen disembarked in the Bay of Whales and the Fram came under the command of Amundsen's deputy, Thorvald Nilsens. His instructions were to sail straight to Buenos Aires, where the necessary repairs would be made and supplies and crew would be replenished. The Fram was then to take oceanographic measurements in the southern Atlantic between Africa and South America and return to Buenos Aires, from where he was to return to Antarctica to pick up the coastal group again. If something should happen to Amundsen, it was planned that Nilsen would take his place and carry out the original plan of the expedition, the exploration of the Arctic Basin.

Before the Fram finally left the Bay of Whales on February 15, she drove as far into the bay as possible and reached 78 ° 41 'S., the southernmost latitude a ship could reach by then. On February 22nd, the drift ice belt was reached, which was crossed in just one day. The last iceberg was sighted on March 14th, and Cape Horn was crossed on the 31st . On April 17th, after a journey of 62 days, the Fram anchored in Buenos Aires. There it turned out that the money Nilsen was supposed to have had never been sent for the simple reason that it wasn't there. Thus, the overhaul of the Fram could not be paid for, which it urgently needed. Buenos Aires-based Norwegian Don Pedro Christophersen, who originally wanted to pay for the supplies and fuel, agreed to pay the overhaul costs. He continued to promise to send a rescue expedition should the Fram not return to Australia by a certain date. After some additional seamen had been hired, the Fram set out on June 8 for the three-month survey voyage, during which the oceanographer Alexander Kutschin measured the temperature and salinity at 60 stations at different water depths. A total of 891 water and 189 plankton samples were taken. On June 30, the ship crossed its course from Norway to Antarctica, completing its first circumnavigation. The islands of St. Helena and Trindade were passed on July 29 and August 12, respectively. The examinations were finished on August 19th and they drove back to Buenos Aires, where they anchored on September 1st.

On October 5, the ship left Buenos Aires again. On December 28th, the Norwegians encountered the drift ice belt - one and a half degrees earlier than expected. The fram finally reached the barrier on January 8; a voyage of 25,000 nautical miles was thus completed.

End of the expedition

The Fram in January 1912 in the Bay of Whales

The Fram returned to the Bay of Whales on January 9, 1912, Amundsen went on board on January 30, and the expedition set out on the nearly 4,500 kilometer journey to Hobart . They only took the dogs and valuable equipment with them, as Amundsen assumed Scott was still in the running (in fact he was still on the polar plateau). It was seen as part of the victory to be the first to go public with the news.

A north - westerly course was followed until Cape Adare and the Balleny Islands were reached. Three days after setting out, the Fram encountered the edge of the drift ice belt, which it had crossed on February 6th. She left the polar region three days later and arrived in Hobart on March 7th. From there, Amundsen sent an encrypted telegram to his brother Leon in order to protect the exclusive rights to selected newspapers before the expedition. The decoded text read “Pole reached 14. – 17. December. All well. "

The Fram stayed in Hobart for 13 days before heading east again on March 20. Cape Horn was crossed for the second time on May 6, before the ship anchored in Buenos Aires on May 23. On June 7th, all members of the expedition, except for Amundsen and Nilsen, embarked for Norway. Most had agreed to accompany Amundsen again on the second part of the expedition, which was realized in 1918. Amundsen himself returned to Norway incognito on July 31.

Successes, aftermath and criticism

Amundsen 1913

The main success of the expedition is the achievement of the South Pole, which was also an explicit goal. In addition, the dimensions and surface character of the Ross Ice Shelf were determined and a land connection between Victoria Land and Edward VII Land was confirmed. The eastward journey to Edward VII Land confirmed Scott's discovery of the Discovery Expedition and brought back rock samples, with the help of which and those of the stones of Amundsen the geological composition of the regions determined by Scott and Shackleton could be confirmed. This group also explored the area around the Bay of Whales and obtained some results on crevasse formation and the transition between shelf and sea ice. The meteorological measurement data were a valuable addition to the simultaneous records of other expeditions. Amundsen's oceanographic data turned out to be "valuable reference material" for studying the current system in the Atlantic and the heat distribution in the water. Furthermore, important information about the construction of the polar plateau was obtained.

In a letter to King Haakon, Amundsen briefly describes the geographical discoveries: “Your Majesty, we have determined the southern point of the great“ Ross Ice Barrier ”and the connection between Victoria Land and King Edward VII Land. We have discovered a mighty mountain range with peaks of up to 22,000 feet [...] We have found that the great inland plateau [...] slowly drops from the 89th parallel [...]. ”The mountains that the Norwegians discovered are around, however a third lower.

Amundsen's success was able to appease criticism of his unauthorized approach. However, the trip was sometimes viewed as a political stupidity that could have worsened relations with the protective power Great Britain. The climate in England actually deteriorated, but the displeasure was directed more against Amundsen himself than against Norway. The criticism of Amundsen initially subsided. However, after the news of Scott's death became known on February 11, 1913, Amundsen from England was accused of being partly responsible because Scott's defeat had broken his heart.

Johansen committed suicide in Oslo on January 4, 1913; his friends accused Amundsen of being complicit in this. Huntford writes that the humiliation in Antarctica was the last trigger, but that Nansen is complicit because he left Johansen to fend for himself after their joint expedition ended.

On his long-planned seven-year drift through the Arctic waters, the second part of the Fram expedition, Amundsen set out in July 1918, albeit with a different ship, the Maud .

See also


  • Roald Amundsen: The South Pole. An Account of the Norwegian Antarctic Expedition in the "Fram", 1910-1912. Translated from the Norwegian by AG Chater. C. Hurst & Co. Publishers, London 2001, ISBN 1-85065-469-7 ( digitized facsimile ).
  • Roland Huntford : Scott & Amundsen. Dramatic battle for the South Pole (= Heyne books 01, Heyne general series. No. 13247). Translated from the English by Arnold Loos and Ulrike Laszlo. Revised and expanded edition. Heyne, Munich 2000, ISBN 3-453-17790-8 .
  • Rainer-K. Langner: Duel in the eternal ice. Scott and Amundsen or the conquest of the South Pole (= Fischer 14908). Fischer-Taschenbuch-Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2001, ISBN 3-596-14908-8 .
  • Andreas Venzke : Scott, Amundsen and the price of fame. The conquest of the South Pole. Arena-Verlag, Würzburg 2011, ISBN 978-3-401-06539-7 .


Web links

Commons : Amundsen Expedition  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. The Great Ice Barrier is now called the Ross Ice Shelf, and was given this name because "we might try to sail through the cliffs of Dover with as much prospect of success as we would through such a mass of ice." - Ross, after Huntford, p. 11 .
  2. Huntford, pp. 10-11.
  3. ^ Huntford, p. 108.
  4. a b Huntford, p. 21.
  5. Huntford, p. 99.
  6. ^ The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th edition 2000 ( Memento of November 10, 2007 in the Internet Archive ). On:
  7. Huntford, pp. 72-78.
  8. ^ Huntford, p. 165.
  9. Huntford, pp. 165 and 168.
  10. ^ Huntford, p. 180.
  11. ^ Huntford, p. 183.
  12. Amundsen, p. 43. He actually succeeded in doing this by advancing to the South Pole and thus achieving the last great goal of polar research.
  13. Huntford, p. 183. - If Amundsen had first sailed around Cape Horn, as officially planned , and started the Bering Strait from there , it would have made no sense to take the dogs from Denmark and transport them twice through the tropics.
  14. Amundsen, quoted in Huntford, p. 181 f.
  15. Huntford, pp. 185-187.
  16. Amundsen, pp. 43-44.
  17. ^ A b Huntford, p. 220.
  18. ^ Huntford, p. 228.
  19. Huntford, pp. 178-179.
  20. Huntford, pp. 221-222.
  21. Amundsen ( Memento of the original from September 26, 2009 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , in: Project Gutenberg, accessed July 24, 2008. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  22. Amundsen, pp. 54-56.
  23. Huntford, pp. 218-219.
  24. The Kongelige Grønlandske Handel received the monopoly for trade with Greenland in 1776 and held this privilege until 1950.
  25. Amundsen, pp. 56-59.
  26. Amundsen, p. 313 and p. 349.
  27. Amundsen, p. 44.
  28. ^ Huntford, p. 223.
  29. Amundsen, pp. 46-47.
  30. Amundsen, pp. 50-52.
  31. ^ A b Huntford, p. 216.
  32. Amundsen, pp. 347-379.
  33. a b Amundsen, p. 347.
  34. ^ Larsen B Ice Shelf Collapses in Antarctica. National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) March 21, 2002, archived from the original on April 5, 2008 ; Retrieved July 24, 2008 .
  35. Historical Antarctic Stations. Antarctica Online, accessed July 24, 2008 .
  36. Huntford, p. 256; Amundsen, p. 358.
  37. ^ Huntford, p. 256.
  38. ^ Huntford, p. 242.
  39. ^ Huntford, p. 245.
  40. ^ Huntford, p. 246.
  41. There are different representations of the wording of the telegram. Cherry-Garrard (p. 82), Crane (p. 423) and Preston (p. 127) all report that it was a simple “Am going south”. Lt. Evans reports, according to Solomon (p. 64), of a much more polite “Beg leave to inform you Fram proceeding Antarctica” (“I ask to be allowed to inform you that the Fram is advancing towards Antarctica”), which was said by Fiennes and Huntford ( P. 266) is supported.
  42. Amundsen, p. 130; Huntford pp. 251-254.
  43. ^ Huntford, p. 254.
  44. ^ Huntford, p. 262.
  45. An ice foot is an abrasion terrace on icebergs or on the ice shelf.
  46. Huntford, pp. 292-293.
  47. Amundsen, p. 248.
  48. Amundsen stayed in Framheim to cure his hemorrhoids - Huntford, p. 300.
  49. Amundsen, pp. 270-278.
  50. ^ Huntford, p. 324.
  51. Amundsen, p. 349.
  52. ^ Huntford, p. 331.
  53. Amundsen, p. 379.
  54. Amundsen, p. 383.
  55. Amundsen, p. 388.
  56. Huntford, pp. 343-345.
  57. ^ Johansen, quoted in Huntford, p. 345.
  58. Huntford, pp. 345-346.
  59. ^ Huntford, p. 347.
  60. Amundsen, p. 390.
  61. ( Memento from March 15, 2006 in the web archive ), page about the Antarctic climate.
  62. a b Amundsen, p. XIV.
  63. ^ Huntford, p. 366.
  64. Amundsen, p. XV.
  65. ^ Huntford, p. 372.
  66. ^ Huntford, p. 375.
  67. Amundsen, after Huntford p. 377.
  68. ^ Huntford, p. 378.
  69. Amundsen, p. 57.
  70. Amundsen, pp. 57-62.
  71. Amundsen, p. XX.
  72. ^ Huntford, p. 424.
  73. Amundsen, p. 133.
  74. ^ Priestley, quoted in Huntford, p. 450.
  75. ^ Huntford, p. 433.
  76. Amundsen, p. 154.
  77. ^ Huntford, p. 438.
  78. Amundsen, p. 167.
  79. Amundsen, p. 206.
  80. Amundsen, pp. 206-210.
  81. ^ In September all members of the coastal group were supposed to travel to the pole.
  82. Amundsen, p. 244.
  83. Amundsen, p. 297.
  84. Amundsen, p. 295.
  85. Amundsen, pp. 329-330.
  86. Amundsen, pp. 320-323.
  87. Cornelia Lüdecke : Amundsen. A biographical portrait . Herder, Freiburg im Breisgau 2011, ISBN 978-3-451-06224-7 , p. 105.
  88. ^ Huntford, p. 482.
  89. Amundsen, pp. 395-398.
  90. Amundsen, p. 371.
  91. Björn Helland-Hansen and Fridtjof Nansen, Amundsen, p. 410.
  92. ^ Huntford, p. 427.
  93. Huntford, pp. 496-502.
  94. ^ Huntford, p. 505.
This article was added to the list of excellent articles on November 12, 2008 in this version .