Roald Amundsen | Biography, Expeditions, Polar Explorer & Facts

Roald Amundsen (1872–1928) was an Arctic and Antarctic explorer. He led the first expedition to Antarctica and was the first person to visit both the North and South Poles.

Roald Amundsen Overview:

Occupation Explorer
Nationality Norwegian
Born July 16, 1872 in Borge, Norway
Died June 18, 1928 during a rescue attempt
Best known for First man to visit the South Pole

Biography of Roald Amundsen:

Where did Roald grow up?

Roald was born in Borge, Norway on July 16, 1872. He grew up in Norway with his three brothers. His father, who worked in the shipping industry, died when Roald was just 14. Roald dreamed of becoming an explorer, but his mother wanted him to become a doctor. He followed his mother’s will until his death at the age of 21. He then quit his school to pursue his dream of discovery.

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Roald became a crew member on various ships that sailed to the North Pole. In 1887 he was first mate on a ship named Belgica. It was his first expedition to survive the Arctic winter. On these early voyages, Roald learned valuable survival lessons that would serve him well later. One was that fresh seal meat contained vitamin C, which could help treat scurvy. There was also the option of using animal skins instead of wool coats to keep warm.

Northwest Passage

In 1903 Roald led an expedition on his ship Joa. He traveled to the magnetic North Pole and was the first to discover the Northwest Passage from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. This passage has been groped for centuries. Roald’s ability to navigate and survive this journey was a huge achievement.

South Pole

Next, Roald planned an expedition to the North Pole. However, when he heard that Robert Peary claimed to have already reached the North Pole, he made a last-minute plan and decided to aim for the South Pole. He kept this secret until the last moment. He fought with British explorer Robert Scott to be the first to reach the South Pole.

On January 14, 1911, Amundsen’s ship Fram arrived at Whale Bay in Antarctica. There they set up camp and prepared to travel to the South Pole. Roald made sure the dogs were well fed. One of the crew, a carpenter named Olaf Bialand, redesigned the sled they use. He dropped his weight from 195 pounds to 50 pounds. This weight reduction is very important for saving energy while driving.

Ten months after arriving in Antarctica on October 20, they set off for the South Pole. There were 5 men, 52 dogs and 4 sleds. At first they moved quickly, but soon had to cross mountains and avoid dangerous crevasses. After almost two months of grueling travel, they finally arrived at their destination. On December 14, 1911, Roald Amundsen raised the Norwegian flag over the South Pole.

All five of Amundsen’s crew made it back to base camp safely, but only 11 survived. The expedition lasted 99 days and traveled over 1,800 miles.

Robert Scott’s British expedition reached the South Pole 35 days after Amundsen. Unfortunately, they didn’t make it back alive, but were found frozen to death months later.

North Pole

Amundsen still had the goal of reaching the North Pole. In 1926 he took part in an expedition on the airship Norge with Umberto Nobile. They flew over the North Pole in May and were thought to be the indisputable first North Pole visit (Robert Peary’s claim is disputed by many).

Rescue Attempt

Roald died in a plane crash on June 18, 1928 during a rescue operation. Roald was about to rescue some of the crew of the crashed Nobile airship.

Interesting Facts about Roald Amundsen

Amundsen, Nobile, and Lincoln Ellsworth all threw their national flags toward the North Pole as they flew over it.

At one point he was attacked by a polar bear and nearly killed.

The airship he flew to the North Pole was about 350 feet long and filled with hydrogen gas.

He named the mountains he crossed on his way to the South Pole the “Queen Maud Mountains” after the Queen of Norway.

When he reached the South Pole, he stayed there for three days to rest and prepare for his return.

Roald Dahl, author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peaches, is named after Amundsen.