The Prime Minister of Norway, Jens Stoltenberg, announced today that he’ll be traveling to the South Pole in December to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of Roald Amundsen’s arrival at that point. Amundsen and his team became the first men to reach the Pole on December 14th, 1911, famously beating out Britain’s Robert Falcon Scott by just a few weeks.
Unlike Amundsen, Stoltenberg won’t be making the journey overland however. Instead, he’ll fly to the Pole where he’ll greet a four-person Norwegian team that is set to follow Amundsen’s route. The plan is for that team to arrive on December 14th of this year to commemorate the historical event which remains such a point of pride for the people of Norway.
The polar team will consist of Jan-Gunnar Winther, the head of the Norwegian Polar Institute as well as former cross-country skier and Olympic champion Vegard Ulvang. They’ll be joined on the journey by a historian and an adventurer as well. While Amundsen went to the Pole by dogsled, this team will travel on skis however.
As we get closer to the 2011 Antarctic season, we’re sure to hear a lot more about Amundsen and Scott, who were in a desperate race to be the first to reach the Pole. Both men had tried on more than one occasion to plant their nation’s flag at 90ºS, but weather conditions, poor equipment, and the challenges of the unknown all conspired against them. Finally, Amundsen broke through using his dogsleds, and as result, Scott discovered a Norwegian flag at the Pole when he arrived four weeks later.
Devastated by losing the race, Scott and his men turned back towards the coast and their ship, which was waiting 800 miles away. Along the way, the weather took a turn for the worse, and they managed to get caught in a blizzard that lasted for ten days. Stranded in their tent, the last of their supplies and energy, ran out, and Scott, along with his two remaining companions, perished. They were just 11 miles away from a supply cache that would have probably saved their lives.
The race to the South Pole is filled with epic characters, epic journeys, and epic suffering. A century later, those same characters still cast a wide shadow over the frozen continent.
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