Roald Engelbregt Gravning Amundsen (July 16, 1872 – c. June 18, 1928) was a Norwegian explorer of polar regions. He led the first Antarctic expedition to reach the South Pole between 1910 and 1912. He was also the first person to reach both the North and South Poles. He is known as the first to traverse the Northwest Passage. He disappeared in June 1928 while taking part in a rescue mission. With Douglas Mawson, Robert Falcon Scott, and Ernest Shackleton, Amundsen was a key expedition leader during the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration.
During this time Amundsen learned from the local Netsilik people about Arctic survival skills that would later prove useful. For example, he learned to use sled dogs and to wear animal skins en lieu of heavy, woolen parkas. After a third winter trapped in the ice, Amundsen was able to navigate a passage into the Beaufort Sea after which he cleared into the Bering Strait, thus having successfully navigated the Northwest Passage. Continuing to the south of Victoria Island, the ship cleared the Canadian Arctic Archipelago on August 17 1905, but had to stop for the winter before going on to Nome on the Alaska Territory's Pacific coast. Five hundred miles (800 km) away, Eagle City, Alaska, had a telegraph station; Amundsen travelled there (and back) overland to wire a success message (collect) on December 5, 1905. Nome was reached in 1906. Due to water as shallow as , a larger ship could never have used the route.
It was at this time that Amundsen received news that Norway had formally become independent of Sweden and had a new king. Amundsen sent the new King Haakon VII news that it "was a great achievement for Norway." He hoped to do more he said and signed it "Your loyal subject, Roald Amundsen."
After crossing the Northwest Passage , Amundsen made plans to go to the North Pole and explore the North Polar Basin. Amundsen had difficulty raising funds for the departure and upon hearing in 1909 that first Frederick Cook and then Robert Peary claimed the Pole, he decided to reroute to Antarctica. However, he did not make these plans known and misled both Scott and the Norwegians. Using the ship Fram ("Forward"), earlier used by Fridtjof Nansen, he left Norway for the south, leaving Oslo on June 3, 1910. At sea, Amundsen alerted his men that they would be heading to Antarctica in addition to sending a telegram to Scott notifying him simply: "BEG TO INFORM YOU FRAM PROCEEDING ANTARCTIC--AMUNDSEN." The expedition arrived at the eastern edge of Ross Ice Shelf at a large inlet called the Bay of Whales on January 14 1911 where Amundsen located his base camp and named it Framheim. Further, Amundsen eschewed the heavy wool clothing worn on earlier Antarctic attempts in favour of Eskimo-style skins.
Using skis and dog sleds for transportation Amundsen and his men created supply depots at 80°, 81° and 82° South, along a line directly south to the Pole. Amundsen also planned to kill some of his dogs on the way and use them as a source for fresh meat. After a premature attempt to set out on 8 September, 1911 the Pole team consisting of Olav Bjaaland, Helmer Hanssen, Sverre Hassel, Oscar Wisting and Amundsen himself departed on 19 October, 1911. They took four sledges and 52 dogs. Using a route along the previously unknown Axel Heiberg Glacier they arrived at the edge of the Polar Plateau on November 21 after a four-day climb. On 14 December 1911, the team of five, with 16 dogs, arrived at the Pole (90°00'S). They arrived 35 days before Scott's group. Amundsen named their South Pole camp Polheim, "Home on the Pole". Amundsen renamed the Antarctic Plateau as King Haakon VII's Plateau. They left a small tent and letter stating their accomplishment, in case they did not return safely to Framheim. The team returned to Framheim on January 25, 1912 with 11 dogs. Amundsen's success was publicly announced on 7 March, 1912, when he arrived at Hobart, Australia.
Amundsen's expedition benefited from careful preparation, good equipment, appropriate clothing, a simple primary task (Amundsen did no surveying on his route south and is known to have taken only two photographs), an understanding of dogs and their handling, and the effective use of skis. In contrast to the misfortunes of Scott's team, the Amundsen's trek proved rather smooth and uneventful.
In Amundsen's own words:
In 1918 Amundsen began an expedition with a new ship Maud, which was to last until 1925. Maud sailed West to East through the Northeast Passage, now called the Northern Route (1918-1920). Amundsen planned to freeze the Maud into the polar ice cap and drift towards the North Pole (as Nansen had done with the Fram), but in this he was not successful. However, the scientific results of the expedition, mainly the work of Harald Sverdrup, were of considerable value. Many of these carefully-collected scientific data had been lost during the ill-fated journey of Peter Tessem and Paul Knutsen, two crew members sent on a mission by Amundsen, but they were later retrieved by Russian scientist Nikolay Urvantsev as they lay abandoned on the Kara Sea shores.
In 1925, accompanied by Lincoln Ellsworth, pilot Hjalmar Riiser-Larsen, and three other team members, Amundsen took two aircraft, the N-24 and N-25 to 87° 44' north. It was the northernmost latitude reached by plane up to that time. The planes landed a few miles apart without radio contact, yet the crews managed to reunite. One of the aircraft, the N-24 was damaged. Amundsen and his crew worked for over three weeks to clean up an airstrip to take off from ice. They shoveled 600 tons of ice while consuming only one pound (400 g) of daily food rations. In the end, six crew members were packed into the N-25. In a remarkable feat, Riiser-Larsen took off, and they barely became airborne over the cracking ice. They returned triumphant when everyone thought they had been lost forever.
In 1926, Amundsen, Ellsworth, Riiser-Larsen, Oscar Wisting, and the Italian aeronautical engineer Umberto Nobile made the first crossing of the Arctic in the airship Norge designed by Nobile. They left Spitsbergen on 11 May 1926, and they landed in Alaska two days later. The three previous claims to have arrived at the North Pole – by Frederick Cook in 1908; Robert Peary in 1909; and Richard E. Byrd in 1926 (just a few days before the Norge) – are all disputed, as being either of dubious accuracy or outright fraud. Some of those disputing these earlier claims therefore consider the crew of the Norge to be the first verified explorers to have reached the North Pole. If the Norge expedition was actually the first to the North Pole, Amundsen and Oscar Wisting would therefore be the first persons to attain each geographical pole, by ground or by air, as the case may be.
Amundsen disappeared on June 18, 1928 while flying on a rescue mission with Norwegian pilot Leif Dietrichson, French pilot Rene Guilbaud, and three more Frenchmen, looking for missing members of Nobile's crew, whose new airship the Italia had crashed while returning from the North Pole. Afterwards, a pontoon from the French Latham 47 flying-boat he was in, improvised into a life raft, was found near the Tromsø coast. It is believed that the plane crashed in fog in the Barents Sea, and that Amundsen was killed in the crash, or died shortly afterwards. His body was never found. The search for Amundsen was called off in September by the Norwegian Government. In 2003 it was suggested that the plane went down northwest of Bear Island (Norway).
The following ships are named after him:
Other tributes include:
Works by Amundsen: