Antarctica 1911: How Amundsen Won The Pole

800px Pole observation

As most of you know, yesterday marked the 100th anniversary of Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen becoming the first person to reach the South Pole. A century ago, that was almost as big of an accomplishment as man walking on the moon. Back then, exploration was quite the source for national pride, and at the time, there were a number of explorers that were vying for the chance to be the first to plant their flag at 90ºS.

Amundsen’s triumph followed a number of failed attempts by several pioneers of arctic exploration, including Ernest Shackleton and the Norwegian’s chief rival, Robert Falcon Scott. But was was diffeent on this expedition from all the others, and how did Amundsen reach the finish line more than a month ahead of Scott? That is the subject of an excellent article on the National Geographic Adventure blog, which goes into detail on the advantages that Amundsen had over Scott, thanks to the time he spent in the Arctic, where he learned polar survival skills from the Inuit.

Throughout his lifetime, Amundsen was drawn to the cold, polar regions of the planet. Not only did he visit the South Pole, but he also became the first person to visit both Poles by going to 90º North as well. The explorer also pioneered routes through the Northwest and Northeast passages too. On many of his adventures, he displayed a keen ability to adapt to situations and learn from his challenges. So when Amundsen had a chance to learn from the Inuit tribes while making the first traverse of the Northwest Passage, he became a keen student of the skills that allowed them to thrive above the Arctic Circle.

When he returned to the Antarctic, Amundsen knew that sled dogs and warm furs were going to help him win the day, and in the end, those choices proved to be very wise. Not only was he able to move much faster than Scott, but his approach was much more efficient for the men too.

The rest is, as they say, history.

Kraig Becker