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Roald Amundsen

Roald Amundsen (1872-1928) - resume
Roald [Engelbregt Gravning] Amundsen blev født den 16. juli 1872 i Borge, som ligger mellem Fredrikstad og Sarpsborg i det sydøstlige Norge. Han er sammen med Fridtjof Nansen Norges største polarforsker. Han gennemfører omfattende målinger af den magnetiske nordpol. Han bliver første mand på Sydpolen i 1911 og er også den første, for hvem det lykkes at sejle gennem Nordvestpassagen. I 1926 flyver han over Nordpolen i et luftskib sammen med Riiser-Larsen, Lincoln Ellsworth og Umberto Nobile. Amundsen forsvinder i juni 1928, mens han deltager i en undsætningsmission efter kammeraten Umberto Nobile - som i øvrigt senere dukker op i god behold. Amundsen dør den 18, juni 1928, kun 55 år gammel.

Roald Amundsens opvækst
Roald Amundsen bliver født ind i en familie af skibsredere og kaptajner gennem i hvert fald fem generationer. Han er søn af Jens Amundsen, som gik til søs og arbejdede sig op til at blive kaptajn på eget skib. Sammen med to brødre og en svoger udviklede han en blomstrende rederivirksomhed, som opererede indtil 22 sejlskibe. I begyndelsen af 1850'erne købte han et landområde på Hvidsten i Borge og byggede i 1857 hjemmet "Tomta". Her blev Roald Amundsen født, og huset har siden bevaret sit daværende udseende. Da Roald var et par måneder gammel, flyttede familien til Oslo (dengang Kristiania). Her vokser Roald op sammen med sine tre ældre brødre, og de udnytter til fulde mulighederne for skiløb og skøjteløb om vinteren og for sejling og fiskeri om sommeren. Faderen ønsker, at hans yngste søn skal få den uddannelse, som han aldrig selv havde mulighed for, og han vil, at sønnes skal blive læge. Roald kommer på universitetet som 18-årig, men klarer sig ikke særlig godt, han forsømmer studierne og i 1893 dumper han til første del, hvilket han holder for sig selv.

I virkeligheden har Roald for længst besluttet, at han vil være opdagelsesrejsende i de polare regioner. Han har slugt alt, hvad der er skrevet om den såkaldte Franklin-ekspedition, som i 1840 forulykkede i jagten på den sagnomspundne Nordvestpassage (du kan læse mere om denne ekspedition på min Knud Rasmussen side). Flere hjælpeekspeditioner har uden held forsøgt at finde lokalisere ekspeditionens to skibe med 134 mand om bord. Roald drømmer om at blive den første, som krydser Nordvestpassagen. Som Knud Rasmussen bliver også Roald enormt inspireret af, at det lykkes nordmanden Fridtjof Nansen at krydse Grønland på ski. Faderen dør i 1892, og af hensyn til moderen fortsætter Roald sit medicinstudium, men da moderen dør året efter, sælger han sine lærebøger og forlader universitetet. Samme år skriver han til polarforskeren Martin Hoff Ekroll i Tromsø: "Jeg har allerede fra barnsben haft stor lyst til at komme med på en af disse interessante ishavsekspeditioner, men flere omstændigheder er trådt hindrende i vejen. Mine forældres ønske, først og fremmest, om at jeg skulle studere." Han slutter brevet med at fortælle, at han ikke forlanger nogen løn, og at han er villig til at underkaste sig, hvad det skulle være. Roald Amundsen tager hyre på hvalfangeren "Magdalene" - samme "Magdalene", som siden bliver købt af Mylius-Erichsen og omdøbt til "Danmark" og kommer til at give navn til Danmark ekspeditionen 1906-1908. Men det er en anden historie, som du evt. kan læse om på min Mylius-Erichsen side.

Roald Amundsen på Belgica-ekspeditionen
Fra 1897-1899 deltager Amundsen i den belgiske polarforsker Adrian de Gerlaches antarktiske ekspedition. Formålet er at udforske kysten ved Antarktis, men det ender med, at Amundsen - uplanlagt - kommer til at tilbringe 13 måneder på skibet "Belgica" i drivis i et område, som siden får hans navn, Amundsen Sea. Det er første gang, at en ekspedition har overvintret i Antarktis. På denne tur bliver Amundsen venner med lægen Frederick A. Cook, et venskab, som kommer til at vare hele livet. Iflg. Amundsen er det Cooks fortjeneste, at mandskabet ikke dør af skørbug.

Efter hjemkomsten føler Amundsen sig parat til at begynde planlægningen af sin drengedrøm, søgning efter Nordvestpassagen, som skulle give adgang til det nordamerikanske kontinent. Først søger han støtte hos sin helt, Fridtjof Nansen, som ikke alene rådgiver ham, men også er behjælpelig med finansiering af ekspeditionen. I modsætning til Nansen har Amundsen ikke nogen videnskabelig baggrund, og han er klar over, at han må lære om videnskabelig metode, herunder indsamling af pålidelige data. Amundsen opsøger Dr. G. von Neumayer i Hamborg, som er datidens største ekspert med hensyn til måling af jordens magnetisme. Von Neumayer instruerer Amundsen i flere måneder i detaljer om udførelse af præcise målinger.

Ekspeditionen til Nordvestpassagen
Næste skridt er at finde et passende skib. Det skal være lille, solidt og billigt, da Amundsen påregner selv at skulle finansiere ekspeditionen. Efter grundige undersøgelser køber en tidligere fiskebåd på kun 46 tons og med en motor på kun 13 hestekræfter, "Gjøa". Året efter i 1901 sejler Amundsen med "Gjøa" til vandene udfor Østgrønland for at blive fortrolig med skibet og for at foretage nogle oceanografiske målinger, som Nansen havde udtrykt interesse for. De næste to år tester han udstyr mv. og samler et lille hold, som passer til det lille skib. Det står snart klar, at Amundsen ikke selv har de nødvendige midler, og meget mod sin vilje må han åbenbare sin planer for at skaffe finansiering. Hans natur byder ham ellers først at publicere sine aktiviteter, når de er gennemført. Da "Gjøa" forlader Oslo den 16. juni 1903 er han i dyb gæld, og han må love at betale sine kreditorer, når Nordvestpassagen er blevet erobret.

Amundsens besætning består af seks mand: næstkommanderende Godfred Hansen, dansk søløjtnant, geolog og astronom, Anton Lund, som har megen erfaring med issejlads, Peder Ristvedt, meteorolog og ingeniør, Helmer Hansen, erfaren sømand og fanger, Gustav Juel Wiik, ansvarlig for målinger af magnetfelter, og Adolf Henrik Lindstrgm, kok - han havde deltaget som kok i den anden Fram-ekspedition fra 1898-1902. Amundsen har været meget bevidst om valget af et lille fartøj og et tilsvarende lille mandskab. Hans strategi er, at mandskabet skal være så lille som muligt, men netop tilstrækkelig til at løse den foreliggende opgave. Herved opnås, at hver mand er fuld beskæftiget og føler, at hans personlige indsats er af betydning for ekspeditionen.

Nordvestpassagen er navnet på den sørute, som forbinder Atlanterhavet og Stillehavet gennem det canadiske øhav. Hidtil har det været umuligt at sejle gennem Nordvestpassagen, da den stort set er dækket af is året rundt. Udover at gennemsejle Nordvestpassagen er det også Amundsens mål at bestemme placeringen af den magnetiske nordpol. Ekspeditionen sejler op langs den grønlandske vestkyst og er så heldige at undgå den tidlige is. De lægger til i Godhavn i Grønland for at tage 20 slædehunde ombord. De fortsætter nordpå og når den 15. august til Dalrymple Rock, hvor nogle skotske hvalfangere har udlagt depoter til ekspeditionen. Herfra fortsætter de i sydvestlig retning over Baffin Bugten til Beechey Island. De kaster anker ved Erebus Bay - opkaldt efter et af Franklins skibe, HMS Erebus.

Ekspeditionen bliver liggende indtil den 24. august og udforsker den øde Beechey Island og foretager målinger af magnetfeltet. Herefter fortsætter de sydpå gennem Peel Sound og Franklinstrædet. Midt i september 1903 lægger de ind i en lille og sikker naturhavn i det sydøstlige hjørne af King William Island; havnen døber de "Gjøahavn" [idag Gjøa Haven]. Storm, ild i motorrummet og et sammenstød med et mindre rev er lige ved at gøre en ende på turen, men hurtig indgriben og godt sømandskab redder situationen. Amundsen beslutter at overvintre her og koncentrere sig om målinger af magnetfelt.

De kommer til at tilbringe næsten to år i Gjøa Haven. I november måned dukker der en flok eskimoer op, og ekspeditionen opnår et meget fortroligt og tæt forhold til den dem. De adopterer inuitternes beklædning (rensdyrskind), lærer at bygge snehytter, deltager i sæljagt om vinteren, sejler i kajak og fisker om sommeren. Eskimoerne modtager til gengæld nåle, knive, metaldåser mv. Under hele ekspeditionen kommer man i berøring med omkring 10 eskimostammer, hvoraf nogle har været i berøring med den moderne verden og andre ikke. Amundsen skriver siden, at det er hans faste overbevisning, at de eskimoer, som har levet absolut isoleret fra den moderne verden, er de gladeste, sundeste, stolteste og mest tilfredse af alle. Hans inderligste ønske for de små inuit-samfund er, at de aldrig må komme i berøring med den såkaldte civilisation.

Wiik og Ristvedt bygger deres observatorium på kysten. Her opsamler de over de næste to år et væld at både magnetiske og meteorologiske data, som siden bliver distribueret til norske videnskabsfolk til senere behandling. I april 1904 tager Amundsen og Ristvedt på en slæderejse til Boothia Halvøen for at foretage målinger tæt på den magnetiske nordpol, Disse målinger viser, at den magnetiske nordpol befinder sig tæt på det sted, hvor James Clark Ross havde "asnbragt" den 73 år tidligere. I foråret 1905 foretager Helmer Hansen og Peder Ristvedt en lang slædetur langs østkysten af Victoria Island og kortlægger den. Den 26. maj når de øens nordligste punkt, som de døber Cape Nansen. En måned senere er de tilbage på skibet efter en rejse på omkring 1400 km.

Sommeren 1905 bruges til at gøre "Gjøa" sejlklar, og den 13. august forlader ekspeditionen den isfrie "Gjøa Haven" og sejler vestpå for at fuldføre sejladsen gennem Nordvestpassagen. De sætter kurs mod Herschel Island, som ligger ca 5 km nord for Yokon i Canada. Undervejs opdager de en båd, som er på vej ud til dem fra kysten. Først tror de, at det er et eksimofartøj, men ser snart, at båden indeholder to hvide mænd og en eskimo. Da de kommer ombord, viser det sig, at den ene af mændene, Christian Sten er nordmand. Han har sejlet med skonnerten "Bonanza" af San Francisco, men nu er skibet så medtaget af is, de har været nødt til at forlade det et par dage tidligere. Ved middagstid når de frem til vraget, som ligger strandet på kysten, uhjælpelig frosset fast i isen. De drømmer ikke om, at de skal blive på dette sted, King Point de næste 10 måneder, men isen udvikler sig så hurtigt fra dag til dag, at de bliver nødt til at overvintre.

På billedet til venstre ses den strandede hvalfanger "Bonanza" ved King Point. Bag Amundsens vinterkvarter ses "Gjøa".

Amundsen er meget opsat på at meddele omverden om ekspeditionens skæbne, og i oktober tager han sammen med skipperen på den forliste "Bonanza", Captain Mogg, afsted på hundeslæde til Eagle City i Alaska ved Yukon Floden, som de når en måneds tid senere. Eagle City var blevet anlagt i 1897 lige nord for den canadiske grænse af skuffede guldgravere. Efter at have afsendt telegrammerne slår Amundsen sig ned i to måneder i Eagle City og afventer svar hjemmefra. Først den 12. marts 1906 er han tilbage i King Point. I mellemtiden er Gustav Wiik, Amundsens specialist i magnetiske observationer, blevet syg, og han dør i slutningen af marts og bliver begravet i King Point. I begyndelsen af juli skulle det være muligt at bryde op, men først den 9. august lykkes det "Gjøa" at fortsætte sin rejse vestpå. De kæmper med tåge og svær is langs Alaskas kyst, og i nærheden af Cape Simpson ødelægger de skibsskruen og må fortsætte alene ved hjælp af sejl. Den 17. august kaster "Gjøa" anker ud for Cape Colbourne. Et par dage senere brækker masten til topsejlet i nærheden af Point Barrow, og de sejler langsomt videre med de øvrige sejl sat. I nærheden af Nome bliver de prajet og opfordret til at tage ind i guldgraverbyen, og den 31. august 1906 tager de ind i Nome for at få en ny mast. Her får de en storslået modtagelse og hyldes for den fuldførte sejlads gennem Nordvestpassagen.

På billedet ovenfor ses mandskabet ved ankomsten til Nome. Fra venstre i første række ses Amundsen, Peder Ristvedt, Adolf Lindström og Helmer Hansen. I bageste række Helmer Hansen og Anton Lund.

Ekspeditionsdeltagerne vender tilbage til Norge i et sand triumftog. De fortsætter til San Francisco, hvor de den 19. oktober får en overstrømmende modtagelse. Her erfarer Amundsen, at Norge er blevet frigjort fra Sverige, og han sender et telegram til kong Haakon VII (tidligere prins Carl af Danmark) og meddeler, at "ekspeditionen var en stor begivenhed for Norge", og han underskriver telegrammet: "Deres tro undersåt, Roald Amundsen."

Det norsk-amerikanske samfund i San Francisco bliver så begejstrede for "Gjøa", at det køber hende, og i 1909 placeres hun i Golden Gate Park. I 1972 vender "Gjøa" tilbage til Norge, hvor hun i dag er udstillet på Norsk Sjøfartsmuseum på Bygdøy i Oslo.

Amundsen planlægger at tage til Nordpolen
Det næste par år bruger Amundsen på at forbedre sine vaklende finanser ved at skrive og holde foredrag. Samtidig lægger han store planer for fremtiden, og i efteråret 1908 præsenterer han Norges Geografiske Selskab for et plan om at tage til Nordpolen. Han foreslår en gentagelse af Fridtjof Nansens tur med skibet "Fram", denne gang med bedre udstyr og instrumenter samt bedre forberedelse, da man nu er klar over, hvilke udfordringer, man står overfor. Det ser ud til, at de nødvendige private og offentlige midler kan skaffes til veje, og offentligheden er sikker på, at Amundsen vil blive den første mand på Nordpolen. Amundsens forespørgsel til Fridtjof Nansens om at låne "Fram" bliver generøst imødekommet - selv om nansen selv havde andre planer med "Fram". De storslåede planer falder pludselig til jorden, da to personer gør krav på at have nået Nordpolen. Frederick Albert Cook offentliggør, at han sammen med to inuitter har nået Nordpolen den 22. april 1908, ca et år før Robert E. Peary skal have nået Nordpolen den 7. april 1909. Cooks påstand bliver betvivlet af mange, men er formentlig blevet accepteret af hans ven Roald Amundsen. Også Pearys påstand er siden blevet betvivlet, og det er i dag den almindelige opfattelse, at han ikke nåede helt op til Nordpolen. Nogle polarforskere mener, at Peary var i god tro, når han påstod, at han havde nået sit mål. Under alle omstændigheder kølnes Amundsens interesse for Nordpolen, og han vender i stedet blikket sydpå.

Kapløb mod Sydpolen
Ikke kun Amundsens interesse kølnes, men også offentlighedens, og de følgende fem år er det ikke muligt at rejse de nødvendige midler til en ekspedition. Amundsen føler, at han af hensyn til sit renommé er nødt til at sætte et spektakulært mål, men han vælger ikke at melde det ud. En årsag hertil er formentlig, at det er almindelig kendt, at englænderen Robert Falcon Scott vil gøre endnu et forsøg på at nå frem til Sydpolen, og Nansen vil gøre alt for at nå dertil først. Siden september 1909 har Scott gjort forberedelser til en sydpolsekspedition. Han har blandt andet været i Lillehammer i Norge for at teste motoriserede slæder. Da "Fram" forlader Norge i juni 1910, er den officielle plan at sejle rundt om Kap Horn (Sydamerika), fortsætte nordpå gennem Stillehavet og ind i Det Arktiske Ocean gennem Beringstrædet. Først da "Fram" når frem til Funchal på Madeira i sommeren 1910, afslører Amundsen overfor mandskabet, at de er på vej til Sydpolen og ikke Nordpolen, og til hans lettelse, bliver det accepteret af alle. Kun Amundsens broder, Leon og kaptajnen, Thorvald Nielsen på "Fram" var klar over det i forvejen. Leon sender telegrammer til sponsorerne - herunder den norske konge - og oplyser om de ændrede planer, og fortæller, at Amundsens ekspedition er på vej til Bay of Whales i Ross Sea ud for Mary Byrd Land og derfra vil han forsøge at nå frem til Sydpolen. Fra Madeira sender Amundsen et telegram til Scott og underretter ham om ændringen af destination: "BEG TO INFORM YOU FRAM PROCEEDING ANTARCTIC -- AMUNDSEN".

Telegrammet med denne oplysning når Scott, da han den 12. oktober 1910 ankommer til Melbourne på "Terra Nova". Den 4. januar 1911 begynder Scott landstigningen på Sydpolen og etablerer basen Kap Evans; den ligger næsten 100 km længere fra Sydpolen end Amundsens base i Bay of Whales. Scott vil følge den rute op over Beardmore Gletcheren til det Antarktiske Plateau, som Ernest Shackleton havde fundet i 1908. Scotts ekspedition omfatter udover ham selv 7 mænd, 8 ponyer med hver sin slæde og to motorslæder. I modsætning til Amundsen er Scott kritisk over for brugen af hunde. Dette valg viser sig at være fatalt for Scott, og allerede under losningen går en af motorslæderne gennem isen og synker til bunds. En måned efter at Scott måtte forlade motorslæderne, er ponyerne så udmattede, at de må skydes. Herefter er der kun Scott og mændene tilbage, og afstanden til Sydpolen er 730 km i luftlinje.

Den 14. januar 1911 kaster "Fram" anker i Bay of Whales og opretter basen "Framheim". I februar og marts oprettes syv depoter på den første del af den rute, der skal følges. Denne opgave gør holdet fortrolig med betingelserne og giver mulighed for at teste deres udstyr. Den del af holdet, som ikke deltager i udlægning af depoter, samler en træhytte, som er bragt med fra Norge. Desuden går de på jagt efter sæler og pingviner til føde. Da "Fram" er blevet losset for udstyr, sejler den for at vende tilbage det følgende år. Vinteren (vores sommer) bliver brugt til forberedelser, og slæder, telte, beklædning og fodbeklædning bliver gået efter. Den 4. februar 1911 aflægger medlemmer af Scotts ekspedition besøg i "Framheim".

Den 8. september 1911 tager Amundsens hold afsted mod Sydpolen, idet stigende temperaturer havde givet indtryk af, at foråret var kommet. Holdet består af disse otte: Olav Bjaaland, Helmer Hanssen, Sverre Hassel, Oscar Wisting, Jørgen Stubberud, Hjalmar Johansen, Kristian Prestrud og Roald Amundsen. Snart efter afgangen falder temperaturen til under -51 °C. Den 12. september beslutter de at køre frem til det første depot, lægge deres forsyninger der og vende tilbage til "Framheim" for at afvente varmere vejr. Den hastige tilbagetur er efter Amundsens egen beskrivelse "ikke organiseret", og Prestrud og Hanssen får frostskader. Store, stærke Johansen, som havde været med Fridtjof Nansen på "Fram" i 1893 og været med ham igen i 1895-1896, måtte nærmest bære Prestrud gennem storm i flere timer, mens Amundsen hastede tilbage til lejren - tilsyneladende uden tanke for sine mænd. Da Johansen er tilbage i lejren, bebrejder han Amundsen hans opførsel foran de andre på holdet. Amundsen reagerer med at sætte Johansen, som er langt den mest erfarne polarfarer af dem alle, af det hold, som skal nå Sydpolen. I stedet sender han Johansen og Prestrud ud på en ubetydende ekspedition til King Edward VII Land, og som en yderligere ydmygelse af Johansen gør han den uerfarne Prestrud leder af ekspeditionen.

Den 19. oktober indleder Amundsen den endelige angreb på Sydpolen. Medlemmerne er foruden Roald Amundsen Olav Bjaaland, Helmer Hanssen, Sverre Hassel og Oscar Wisting. De medbringer fire slæder og 52 hunde. Den første del går overraskende nemt, hundene trækker viligt og mændene skal blot holde dem på sporet. Den 23. oktober når de depotet på 80° sydlig bredde, den 3. november når de depotet på 82°, og den 15. november 15, da de har nået 85°, tager de en hviledag. Den 17. november påbegynder de opstigningen over Axel Heiberg Gletcheren. Det går lettere end frygtet, og efter fire dages klatren er de oppe på det udstrakte Arktiske Plateau. Her slagter de 24 af hundene og beholder kun så mange, som de anser nødvendige for tilbageturen. Den 25. november starter turen hen over Det Arktiske Plateau. Storm og hårdt vejr får tempoet til at falde, og den 4. december er de nået til 87°S. Tre dage senere når de Shackletons sydligste position, 88°23'S, 180 km fra Sydpolen.

Amundsen på Sydpolen
Den 14. december 1911 står Amundsens ekspedition som de første nogensinde på Sydpolen. De rejser et telt og en flagstang med det norske flag øverst og en vimpel med Fram nedenunder, og Amundsen udtaler: "Så planter vi dig, du kære flag, på Sydpolen og giver sletten, som Sydpolen ligger på, navnet Kong Haakon VII's Vidda." Amundsen efterlader en kort beretning om den udførte dåd for det tilfælde, at de ikke skulle nå tilbage til "Framheim". Derefter tager et billede af scenen. Det viser sig senere, at der var noget i vejen med Amundsens kamera, men heldigvis tog Bjaaland et billede af det store øjeblik. For en sikkerheds skyld sendes en mand ca 20 km afsted hhv. længere frem obg til højre og til venstre for at være helt sikker på, at de har nået deres mål.

I mellemtiden er Scotts ekspedition begyndt at løbe ind i yderligere vanskeligheder. De udlagte depoter er afmærket for dårligt og dermed vanskelige at finde. Den 18. januar 1912 når Scott Sydpolen - blot for at konstatere, at Amundsen allerede har været der godt en måned forinden. "Gode Gud", skriver Scott i sin dagbog, "Dette er et forfærdeligt sted, og frygteligt for os at have slidt os hertil uden at få nogen belønning.". På hjemrejsen fra Sydpolen omkommer Scott og hans mænd som følge af kulde og sult; moralen har formentlig også fået et knæk, da de ser det norske flag vaje på Sydpolen. Scott, Henry Bowers og Edward Wilson dør blot 18 kilometer fra et af deres egne depoter. Den 29. marts skriver Scott denne opfordring i sin dagbog: "For Guds skyld, tag vare på vores pårørende.". Den 12. november 1912 finder et eftersøgningshold de jordiske rester af Scott og hans ledsagere.

Den 25. januar 1912 er Amundsens gruppe - og 11 hunde - tilbage i "Framheim". Turen, som var på 3.000 km, havde taget 99 dage - den var estimeret til at vare 100 dage. "Fram", som i mellemtiden har foretaget videnskabelige målinger i det sydpolare område, samler dem op, og den 7. marts 1912 når de frem til Hobart, Tasmanien (Australien), og hele verden hører om ekspeditionens bedrifter. Allerede same år udgiver Amundsen "Sydpolen: den norske sydpolsfærd med Fram 1910-1912". Kbh., Gyldendal, 1912. Du kan læse en netudgave af bogen på engelsk her. Amundsen bliver udnævnt til æresmedlem i "Eventyrernes klub", "The Explorers Club" i New York. Scott bliver ligeledes (posthumt) medlem af "The Explorers Club".

I de næsten 100 år, der er gået siden det store kapløb mod Sydpolen, har der selvfølgelig været mange spekulationer over, hvorfor Amundsens ekspedition lykkedes, mens Scotts fejlede. En væsentlig årsag var, at Amundsen var begunstiget af "godt", dvs. normalt vejr, mens Scott havde ekstremt dårligt vejr. Amundsen er heldig at finde den kortere rute over Axel Heiberg Gletcheren, mens Scott vælger Beardmore Gletcheren, som Shackleton har opdaget tre år forinden. En anden vigtig forskel er, at Amundsen vælger den lettere hundeslæde som transportmiddel, hvilket sætter ham i stand til at tage afsted omkring tre uger tidligere end Scott. Amundsen siger selv:

"I may say that this is the greatest factor -- the way in which the expedition is equipped -- the way in which every difficulty is foreseen, and precautions taken for meeting or avoiding it. Victory awaits him who has everything in order -- luck, people call it. Defeat is certain for him who has neglected to take the necessary precautions in time; this is called bad luck." --from The South Pole, by Roald Amundsen. ???? find den danske tekst

Hjalmar Johansens sørgelige skæbne
Johansen was further humiliated by having the inexperienced Prestrud placed in command of the subsidiary expedition. On their return to Norway, Johansen was prevented from landing with the others and eventually committed suicide in 1913. On the return to Norway Amundsen made the whole crew sign a paper that stated that they were to keep quiet about the whole expedition. Amundsen was to have the sole right of writing about it in his soon to be published book. Johansen had to disembark before reaching Norway and was never credited for his contribution by Amundsen. All this led to a vicious circle that ended in Johansen's suicide in 1913.

Nordøstpassagen
Roald Amundsens succes på Sydpolen har ikke fået ha til at glemme sin ambition om at nå frem til Nordpolen. Fra Hobart fortsætter "Fram" til Buenos Aires, hvor hun får en overhaling. Det er planen, at hun herefter skal sejle nordpå gennem Stillehavet til Beringstrædet. I 1913, mens Amundsen forelæser i USA, bliver det ham foreslået, at "Fram" kan blive det første skib til at sejle gennem Panamakanalen. Amundsen bliver henrykt og sender "Fram" til havnebyen Colon i Panama, men efter at have ventet forgæves i 2½ måned returnerer "Fram" til Buenos Aires. Skibets bund er imidlertid blevet så medtaget, at det ikke muligt at gå gennem Beringstrædet i sommeren 1914, så Amundsen beslutter at sende "Fram" tilbage fra Norge. Herfra vil han i 1915 gentage Nansens bedrift fra 1893 med at sejle/drive fra Nordsibiriens kyst mod Nordpolen. "Fram" ankommer til Norge, fire dage før første verdenskrig bryder ud. Her viser det sig, at "Fram" er så medtaget efter sit ophold i troperne, at hun ikke kan repareres.

Amundsen havde i flere år overvejet brugen af fly til arktiske udforskninger. Så tidligt som i 1909 havde han foretaget de første sonderinger, og i 1914 købte han et Farman biplan i USA og sendte det til Norge, hvor han selv tog flycertifikat. Ved krigens udbrud forærede han flyet til Norge.

DISAPPOINTMENT ON THE "MAUD" The "Maud" expedition, loaded with apparatus for oceanographic meteorological and earth magnetism measurements, was the biggest and best equipped geophysical expedition ever to have embarked on polar exploration. But the project was to bring one disappointment after another. Sailing into the Arctic it froze into the coastal ice and lay helpless for the two first winters. It soon needed extensive repairs. These were carried out in Seattle where the "Maud" was equipped for more years in the ice. But in June of 1922 the ship again moved north, only to freeze fast by Wrangel Island, on the far northeast of the USSR. The ship moved with the ice onto the continental shelf off northeastern Siberia, where it remained for three years. The ambitious expedition had failed to attain its geographical goals, but the geophysical data which was compiled, largely by meteorologist/oceanographer Harald Ulrik Sverdrup, earned the ""Maud" expedition the reputation of being one of the most important research projects ever carried out in the Arctic. Something had been salvaged from the wreckage of disappointment.

WINGS OVER THE POLE? Amundsen had shown an early interest in aviation as an aid to polar research. On its last venture northwards the "Maud" had on board two small planes. One of these was intended for observation purposes, the other, a larger craft, for flying due north from Alaska. Both aircraft crashlanded fairly soon, though the pilots survived the accidents. The "Maud's" failure to achieve its primary goal had not inspired confidence in any air conquest of the North Pole. Amundsen met little interest in his attempts to gather funds for his latest endeavour--to be the first man to fly over the North Pole.

Arriving in New York after an unsuccessful lecture tour, his spirits at a low ebb, Amundsen was contacted by an American hitherto unknown to him, Lincoln Ellsworth. To Amundsen's delight he proposed to finance the purchase of two flying boats and to cover some of the other expenses in return for taking part in the expedition. Amundsen procured pilots and mechanics for the two aircraft and on May 21 1925 the two planes took off from Spitsbergen headed for Alaska. But as early as the next morning one of the aircraft's petrol tanks sprang a leak, and the other had engine trouble. Both aircraft landed on the ice some 150 km from the Pole. Only one of them could be used after this. After the six men--using only hand tools--had hewn out a primitive runway, the pilot, Hjalmar Riiser-Larsen, in a masterly exhibition of the art of flying, managed to take off with all six men on board. The aircraft was overloaded, but with its last drops of fuel managed to reach Nordaustlandet, an island in the Svalbard group, where the six men were plucked from the sea and brought back to Norway.

Contrary to expectations, this most unsuccessful of all Amundsen's polar exploits caught the popular imagination of the whole world. Amundsen was again a hero and was accorded a rapturous welcome when he returned to Oslo. Amundsen described the reception as the happiest memory of his life.

TRIUMPH--ON THE "NORGE" Now convinced that aircraft were not yet suited to transpolar flights, Amundsen thought that it might be possible to fly from continent to continent in an airship. In a surprisingly short space of time he procured funds for a new venture. On May 11 1926 the tireless explorer left Spitsbergen aboard the airship "Norge" (Norway). With him were Lincoln Ellsworth, Italian Umberto Nobile--who had constructed the vessel and flew it--and the brilliant pilot Hjalmar Riiser-Larsen, who served as navigator. In addition there was a crew of 12. After a flight of only 16 hours, the jubilant men were able to drop the Norwegian, American and Italian flags over the North Pole. On 14 May the "Norge" landed at Teller in Alaska. The crew had covered 5,456 kilometres in 72 hours, and were the first men to have flown from Europe to America. The route of the "Norge" had been plotted right across unknown polar territory, and Amundsen was able to state that there were no land areas there. The last remaining blank on the world map had been filled in.

The acclaim of the world reached new heights. In the USA and Japan in particular, his name was especially revered. But the period was saddened by an unfortunate enmity that had arisen between Amundsen and Umberto Nobile, who tried to detract from Amundsen's part in the "Norge" flight, while Amundsen criticized the airship.

Nevertheless, he showed his magnanimity to the full when the news came in May, 1928 that Nobile's new airship, the "Italia" had crashed in the Arctic.

Without hesitation Amundsen volunteered to take part in a rescue attempt, and in June he was one of six men who took off from the town of Tromsø in a French aircraft, the Latham. Nobile and his crew were rescued on 22 June. But three hours after Amundsen's plane took off it transmitted what were to be its final signals. The aircraft never returned.

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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.

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 shovelled 600 tons of ice on 1 lb (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 barely became airborne over the cracking ice. They returned triumphant when everyone thought they had been lost for ever.

In 1926, Amundsen, Ellsworth, Riiser-Larsen, Wisting and Italian aeronautical engineer Umberto Nobile made the first crossing of the Arctic in the airship Norge designed by Nobile. They left Spitsbergen on May 11, 1926 and 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 Wisting would therefore be the first persons to attain each geographical pole.

Disappearance and death 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).

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Af Gert C. Nielsen Straks Amundsen kom hjem, kastede han sig derfor over et nyt projekt. »Maud« havde medbragt to fly, der begge var styrtet ned, men Amundsen mente fortsat, at en flyekspedition til Nordpolen var en mulighed, og det lykkedes at få amerikaneren Lincoln Ellsworth til at finansiere den.

Begge Amundsens fly gik i stykker og måtte lande omkring halvandet hundrede kilometer fra polen, men de seks ekspeditionsdeltagere fik repareret det ene, og uden ret meget udstyr fik de fremstillet en startbane, der var lige netop lang nok til, at det overlæssede fly kunne lette og bringe dem velbeholdne tilbage til Norge. Selvfølgelig var ekspeditionen en kæmpe fiasko, men det eventyrlige ved den faldt i offentlighedens smag, og Amundsen var igen en helt.

Døden i ishavet Selvom fly havde vist sig at være uanvendelige, opgav Amundsen ikke luftvejen, og det lykkedes ham at finde penge til en ekspedition med luftskibet »Norge«.

Med på turen var blandt andet luftskibets konstruktør italieneren Umberto Nobile. De lettede fra Spitsbergen 11. maj 1926 og var over Nordpolen efter blot 16 timers flyvning. Herefter fortsatte de til Teller i Alaska og blev dermed også de første, der fløj hele vejen til Amerika.

Turen var måske en triumf, og Amundsens verdensberømmelse steg, men det store spørgsmål var, hvem der havde ære af den. Ganske vist havde Amundsen skaffet pengene, men det var Nobile, der havde konstrueret og fløjet luftskibet.

De to røg i totterne på hinanden, og Amundsen trak sig mere og mere tilbage og kom lejlighedvis med bitre udfald mod Nobile. Alligevel tog Amundsen resolut afsted, da Nobile under et senere togt blev meldt savnet i Polarhavet i 1928. Tre timer efter, at Roald Amundsen var lettet sammen med andre i et fly, afgav de deres sidste signal. Senere blev der fundet enkelte vragdele ved Bjørnøya, der bekræftede, at Amundsen havde mødt sin skæbne i ishavet.V Umberto Nobile og mandskab blev senere fundet og reddet.Dette er den sidste artikel i serien om verdens største opdagelsesrejsende. Samtlige artikler kan læses på www.berlingske.dk

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Amundsen, den lede karl. Slemme Roald. Mænd, der er optændt af udødelighed, er ofte nogle skiderikker. Roald Amundsen var ingen undtagelse. Ikke desto mindre er han stadig en helt i Norge. Her i en opstilling på Polarmuseet i Tromsø. - Foto: Foto: Pattypix. Så er det snart slut med Hjalmar.

I nogle uger har vi her på siden kredset om polarfarerne Roald Amundsen og Fridtjof Nansens stoute makker, Hjalmar Johansen. Han var både med, da Nansen nåede op til 86* 14’, og han var med, da Roald Amundsen, Nansens (og Scotts) svigefulde konkurrent, stak mod syd for som den første at plante det norske flag i isen på Sydpolen.

Johansens triste skæbne. Da Nansen og Johansen vandrede over isen i månedsvis, reddede Hjalmar flere gange Nansens liv. Blandt andet da Nansen faldt i en våge. Og så lå han jo rumpe mod rumpe med Nansen i dobbeltsoveposen. Havde han ikke på denne vis stillet sin kropsvarme til rådighed for chefen, altså Nansen, ville denne utvivlsomt være kreperet.

Efter den utrolige præstation blev Nansen og Johansen helte i Norge. Nansen, videnskabsmanden, strålede som en sol og blev ved at skinne som en af Norges fremmeste mænd.

Johansen derimod gik en krank skæbne i møde. Han fik som belønning for sin indsats et job i hæren, blev udstationeret i Tromsø, men følte sig aldrig rigtig hjemme. Han endte med at gå fallit, han så for dybt i flasken og evnede heller ikke at holde sammen på sit ægteskab med Hilda.

Men Hjalmar fik endnu en mulighed for at skrive historie. Roald Amundsen manglede en erfaren polargænger på sit hold. På Nansens anbefaling kom Hjalmar i sidste øjeblik med. I starten gik det godt, men så oplevede Johansen Amundsens store svigt: Uden at bekymre sig om sine mænd vendte han efter en forhastet færd mod syd om og begav sig tilbage til ekspeditionens lejr, Framheim.

Kun fordi Johansen, der som den eneste ventede på Kristian Prestrud, gruppens svageste led, præsterede det overmenneskelige og ene mand slæbte Prestrud hjem, endte det med, at ingen omkom. Amundsen havde ikke efterladt nøddepoter og var også stukket af med den eneste primus. Johansen og Prestrud fik først slæbt sig hjem sent om natten. »Hvad opholdt jer?«, var Amundsens eneste kommentar.

Johansen var rystet over chefens svigt og endte med at sige sin mening i alles påhør. Det kunne Amundsen ikke tåle. Kort før den afgørende tur mod Sydpolen udelukkede Amundsen Hjalmar fra at deltage på grund af hans ’illoyalitet’. Næsten fremme ved målet blev Hjalmar Johansen sat af holdet af en chef, hvis menneskelige egenskaber kunne ligge på en teske.

Misinformation Amundsen nåede Sydpolen sammen med fire andre fra holdet 14. december 1911. Klodens sidste gammeldags opdagerfærd over land var dermed afsluttet med norsk triumf. Men Hjalmar var ikke en del af den. Amundsen kom først til Sydpolen og skrev sig dermed ind i historien, men havde kynisk skrevet Hjalmar ud af den.

I ’Den tredje mand’ vurderer Ragnar Kvamm Jnr., at Amundsens ekspedition ville være gået i moralsk opløsning, hvis ikke Johansen havde reddet Prestrud. Det ville have heddet sig, at han var villig til at gå over lig for at vinde over englænderen Scott.

Også hjemme i Norge gjorde Amundsen, hvad han kunne for at misinformere og dermed ødelægge mulighederne for Johansen, han spredte historien om, at Johansen havde begået mytteri. I bogen ’Sydpolen’ skrev Amundsen følgende om det, der i virkeligheden var Johansens heroiske redningsekspedition: »De to første slæder kom frem klokken fire om eftermiddagen. Den næste klokken seks. To derefter klokken halv syv. Den sidste kom ikke før klokken halv et næste morgen. Gud ved, hvad den havde gjort undervejs?«. Infamt.

Godt skuldret, Hjalmar! Da Amundsen og hans folk fik guldmedaljer og blev hædret hjemme i Oslo, gik en nedbrudt Johansen rundt i Oslo. Kvamm skriver: »Den 3. januar 1913 ud på aftenen tager Hjalmar Johansen frakken på og går ud i byen. Ved universitetsbiblioteket går han over gaden og ind i Solli-parken. I ly af træerne tager han den seksløbede revolver frem, som har fulgt ham, siden han gik om bord på Fram. Han sætter den mod hovedet og trykker af«.

Hjalmar Johansen blev kun 45 år. Nogle år senere fik Amundsen dårlig samvittighed. Han udvirkede, at Hjalmar Johansen også skulle have Kong Haakon VII’s guldmedalje for sin deltagelse i Sydpolsekspeditionen. Hilda takkede så meget for den.

Lad os slutte beretningen om Hjalmar Johansen med Ragnar Kvamms ord: »Det var Hjalmar Johansen, som gjorde de to andres dåd mulig. Gennem sin tålmodighed med Fridtjof Nansen under isvandringen og sit oprør mod Roald Amundsen på Framheim skrev han sig ind i polarhistorien som en af de største. Selv da de svigtede ham, beholdt han loyaliteten mod dem begge. Uden Hjalmar Johansen havde Fridtjof Nansen næppe – og i endnu mindre grad Roald Amundsen kunnet klæde sig i polarhistoriens blankeste rustninger«.

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The war and the loss of the Fram did not make Amundsen abandon his plans. He invested his accumulated funds in shipping stock, doubled his capital and contracted in 1916 for the building of a new ship, which still left him enough money to finance the long-postponed drift expedition. His new ship was launched in June 1917 and named the Maud after the Queen of Norway. The Maud had been designed by the yacht builder Chr. Jensen and was built along lines similar to those of the Fram, but she was even more bowl-shaped. Her over-all length was 120 feet, her beam 40 feet and in any vertical section, lengthwise or athwart ship, the line of the hull was part of a circle. From the outer side of the ironwood ice-sheathing to the inner side of the inner sheathing the sides were nearly three feet thick. Inside the hull was strengthened with vertical and inclined stanchions that were tied with naturally-grown knees of oak. Her shape made her behave excellently under heavy pressure from ice, but in the open sea she rolled like a wash basin.

During the winter 1917-8 Amundsen equipped the Maud for a five-year journey, obtaining provisions from the United States under special license. On July 18, 1918 the expedition sailed from Vardo, Norway with a party or nine. This number was increased to ten when a Russian-Norwegian engineer was added at Kharborovo. The party included Helmer Hansen as captain, who had been with Amundsen through the Northwest Passage; Oscar Wisting, first mate, who had been to the South Pole; and among the three tenderfeet was Dr. H. U. Sverdrup, in charge of scientific work. The Maud expedition met with many difficulties. In September 1918 progress was stopped some 10 miles to the east of Cape Chelyuskin, where the Maud stayed a full year. That period was used for carrying out scientific observations and charting the northernmost peninsula of the continent. In the summer of 1919 the ice did not break up around the Maud and only on September 12, after much blasting and advancing foot by foot did the ship reach open water and could continue to the east. Here two men, Knudsen and Tessen, were left behind. They had volunteered to return to Port Dickson with the records of the year’s work. They had a number of dogs and provisions for a year and had the choice of leaving in the fall or waiting until the following spring. They left in the fall but failed to reach their destination.

The Maud sailed to the east but the season was too late to penetrate to the north and start the drift. An attempt to turn away from the coast east of the New Siberian Islands failed and on September 21 all progress was stopped. Winter quarters were established on the open coast of Ayon Island about 600 miles west of Bering Strait. During the winter Sverdrup left the ship and stayed for eight months among the Reindeer Chukchi. In July 1920 the journey east was resumed and on July 28 the Maud reached Nome. Amundsen thus completed the Northeast Passage that had been navigated for the first time by A. E. Nordenskiold in the Vega from 1878 to 79 and for the second time in 1914-15 by the two Russian icebreakers Taimyr and Vaigach, the latter sailing from east to west. In Nome Amundsen announced that all his companions were free to leave the expedition, which had already been in the Arctic for two years without having started its actual task, the drift. Four of the eight remaining in the party decided to return to Norway. Since no new men could be found in Nome, the Maud left with only four men on board, including Amundsen. His plan was to return to the Siberian coast, take some natives on board and attempt to start the drift. However, the ice conditions were worse than before and after a long struggle in which the propeller shaft was damaged, it became necessary to go into winter quarters only 25 miles from the place where the Vega stayed in 1878-9.

During the winter Amundsen decided that next year he would leave it to Wisting and Sverdrup to have another try at the drift if they were willing and that he himself would return to his old plans for the use of airplanes in the Arctic. Consequently the Maud was taken to Seattle in the summer of 1921 for repairs. She left again for the Arctic in June 1922 with a crew of eight, including a native boy from Siberia and finally sueceeded in getting away from the coast. She became fast in the ice east of Wrangell Island but was not carried across the Arctic Ocean as had been hoped. After two years she got out of the ice north of the New Siberian Islands and tried, according to Amundsen’s directions, to return to Bering Strait, but she had to spend one more winter on the Siberian coast near the Bear Islands off the mouth of the Kolyma River. The Maud and her crew finally returned to Seattle in October 1925 with a wealth of observations that made the expedition a scientific success.

Difficulties During the years from 1922 to 25 Amundsen experienced the bitterest disappointments, but also the most spectacular triumph of his varied life. In 1922 he had bought a Junkers plane, which the Maud took to Point Hope, Alaska, where it was transferred to the Holmes, which unloaded it at Wainwright. Amundsen with Oscar Omdal as pilot hoped to fly from Wainwright to Spitsbergen in the spring of 1923, but when spring came it was impossible to get the plane off the ground with the necessary supply of fuel and the plan had to be given up. After returning to Norway in 1923 Amundsen found himself at the lowest ebb in his career. He had hoped to raise funds for an airplane expedition to start from Spitsbergen, but he found himself blocked in every direction. From the public point of view the Maud Expedition was a failure and furthermore it was considered that Amundsen should have stayed with the ship instead of trying ventures, which were called stunts that were unworthy of being taken seriously. All sorts of rumours were being circulated reflecting not only upon Amundsen's intentions as seriousminded explorer, but also upon his morals. On top of all that Amundsen found his finances in a hopeless tangle. On previous occasions he had often been close to bankruptcy, partly because he was so engrossed in his undertakings that he always was convinced that somehow the funds would be forthcoming. So far his optimistic calculations had been successful because help had always arrived when it was most needed, but in 1923 no help was in sight. His debt had increased steadily, partly because some of his trusted friends had been far too optimistic in their dispositions. His only asset, the Maud, was drifting in the ice north of Siberia and nobody knew if she ever would return. The most distressing blow came from his own brother who had lent him money and now feared that everything would be lost. When the brother demanded payment, Amundsen had to let himself be declared bankrupt. Amundsen might have been careless in financial matters but to acknowledge bankruptcy was to him equivalent to admitting that he had been guilty of criminal conduct. The bankruptcy was a blemish on his name that had to be removed and he would not rest until he had paid the last penny of his debt.

The flight to 88" North Amundsen went again lecturing to the United States in 1924, but there the interest in his activities had also faded. Discouraged to the point of despair he figured that at the rate he was going then he would need 60 years to accumulate enough money to pay his debts and finance his new expedition. But a miracle happened. Lincoln Ellsworth called on him, introduced himself as a person Amundsen had met in France in 1917, told him that he was interested in arctic exploration and offered to assist in financing a flight from Spitsbergen. Amundsen accepted with enthusiasm and thus an intimate co-operation and a warm friendship began. Two Dornier-Wal flying boats, N-24 and N-25, were purchased and taken to Spitsbergen, where they started from the fast ice in King’s Bay in latitude 79”N. on May 21, 1925, each carrying three men. The plan was to fly to the vicinity of the Pole and return by a slightly different route in order to explore geographically the region north of Spitsbergen. The chances were that nothing would be seen but ice, but ascertaining that no land existed would in itself be a valuable contribution. Before the planes reached the northern islands off Spitsbergen fog shrouded the land, and for two hours the planes continued their course above the fog banks. After the fog had been left behind nothing but a monotonous expanse of sea ice could be seen. The first open leads were observed in the very early morning of the 22nd and shortly afterwards while Amundsen’s plane, N-25, was circling to look for a place to go down for a position check, one of the engines failed and it became necessary to land. Both planes were brought down, but the N-24 was damaged and had to be abandoned. It was commanded by Ellsworth and had landed less than a quarter of a mile from the N-24, but the ice was so broken and treacherous that only on the fifth day could Ellsworth and his two companions, Dietrichson and Omdal, reach Amundsen’s party. While struggling over the ice with heavy loads both Dietrichson and Omdall fell through, but were saved by Ellsworth’s heroic efforts. The N-25 was in grave danger because the temperature was so low that ice formed rapidly on the leads and the pack ice was in constant motion and might at any time crush the frail craft. By their combined efforts the six men succeeded in hauling the N-25 to comparative safety on a thick ice floe. Now they had a choice between trying to get the one plane into the air or working their way across the ice to the coast of Greenland, 400 miles away. Their chances of reaching Greenland were slim indeed and Amundsen decided to make every effort to prepare a runway on the ice and take off from it. For three weeks the men toiled on short rations and with inadequate tools. Leads opened and floes broke. Again and again they had to save the plane from almost certain disaster and to see their work ruined. Finally on June 6 Riiser-Larsen and Omdal found a floe large enough for take-off and on the next day the weary men went to work with new zeal. Clearing a runway of soft snow by shoveling was back-breaking, but Omdal had the bright idea of tramping the snow down. For four days the six men stamped up and down the runway. A frost on the 14th helped to harden the surface and when on the following day the weather cleared the desperate attempt had to be made. All unnecessary gear was left behind and with the six men on board and fuel for 8 hours Riiser-Larsen managed to get the plane into the air. Eight hours later he set it safely down on the water off the north coast of Spitsbergen. The men were soon picked up by a sealer, which took them to King’s Bay, where they found to their amazement a flotilla of small ships and a few planes ready to start a large-scale search for them. During their journey along the coast of Norway Amundsen and his companions were everywhere greeted by flying flags and cheering crowds and the enthusiastic receptions reached their climax when the party arrived in Oslo on July 5. The city went wild. Amundsen had previously returned from expeditions that had given far greater results, but never from one that had appealed more to the public. What a contrast to the sneers that had met him only a year earlier!

The first flight across the Arctic Ocean Even now Amundsen did not rest on his laurels. He had one more task to accomplish: the crossing of the Arctic Ocean. The possibility of using a dirigible had been discussed during the stay at King’s Bay before the flight of 1925 and on that occasion Riiser-Larsen had directed Amundsen’s attention to the Italian airship N-1 that appeared particularly well suited. In August 1925 its designer, Colonel Umberto Nobile, came to Oslo for a conference with Amundsen and Riiser-Larsen at which general agreement about the purchase of the dirigible was reached. Ellsworth helped finance the enterprise, the contracts were signed and Nobile was engaged as captain of the airship. Extensive preparations were made, including the erection of mooring masts at Oslo and Vardo and the building of a large shed at King’s Bay. All went according to schedule and on May 7,1926 the N-1, renamed the Norge, reached King’s Bay. At that time Byrd had already arrived in King’s Bay in order to attempt a flight to the North Pole in the Josephine Ford airplane. Many people were wondering if there would develop a race between the airship and the airplane and if Byrd and Amundsen would both jealously hasten their last preparations in order to get off first. Actually there was no rivalry and Amundsen was happy when Byrd successfully carried out the flight to the Pole on May 9, two days before the start of the Norge. This attitude of Amundsen was in keeping with his previous non-committal stand in regard to the old Peary-Cook controversy. On May 11,1926 the Norge lifted her great bulk from the snow-covered slope at King’s Bay and set course for Point Barrow, Alaska by way of the North Pole. The party on board numbered 16 men and included Wisting, Amundsen’s companion on the journey to the South Pole, and shipmate in the Maud. In the early hours of May 12 the Pole was reached, where the flags of Norway, Italy, and the United States were dropped. Between the North Pole and Point Barrow the route crossed the largest unexplored region of the Arctic, passing over what Stefansson has called the “Pole of Inaccessibility”, but Amundsen preferred to refer to as the “Ice Pole”. In 1911 the expert on tides, Rollin A. Harris of the U. S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, had advanced the hypothesis that large land masses should lie in that very region. His conclusions were based on a study of the then available tidal observations, but during the Muud Expedition, during which comprehensive records of tides and tidal currents were obtained, it was found that Harris had reasoned from incomplete data, and that contrary to his opinion the character of the tides on the coasts of Siberia and Alaska indicated waters of great depth in the unknown region. During the flight of the Norge the latter conclusion was confirmed, although the airship flew partly through fog and clouds and thus the ground could not be observed continuously. For some time the fog and clouds caused so much icing that the situation appeared critical, partly on account of the added weight and partly on account of the danger of the hull being torn by pieces of ice thrown off the propellers. Several holes were cut in the hull, but they could be repaired and the Norge got out of the icing zone without having suffered serious damage. In the morning of May 13, 46 hours after the start, land was sighted, which turned out to lie just west of Point Barrow. The next 24 hours were the most trying of the whole trip. The main purpose had been accomplished and exhaustion and lack of sleep now made themselves fully felt. Still, it was necessary to travel farther south, preferably to Nome, but navigation was difficult owing to poor radio communications, reduced visibility, and, when the clouds broke, lack of landmarks in the monotonous northern landscape. Course had to be changed repeatedly, but on May 14, 72 hours after the departure from Spitsbergen, the Norge landed safely at Teller, Alaska, about 60 miles northwest of Nome. On the return trip to Norway through the United States Amundsen and his companions were again hailed by great crowds, and on arriving in Oslo their enthusiastic reception equalled that of 1925. Amundsen had brought with him the Norwegian flag that the Norge had flown on the flight across the Arctic Ocean. When he had to speak to the thousands who had gathered to greet him he said : “Many have asked me what has spurred me to start out again and again.” Unfolding the flag he went on : “Here it is. This flag has always spurred me on.” Everybody who knows Amundsen also knows that this was not an idle phrase and that love for and pride of his country were parts of his being.

After the flight of the Norge Amundsen declared that he would no longer take an active part in exploration, but would always be at the disposal of anybody who might wish to benefit from his experiences. He wanted to live in peace at his beloved home outside of Oslo, the home which one of his friends and admirers had bought from his bankrupt estate and had placed at Amundsen’s disposal for life. However, he did not find immediately the peace he had been looking for. There arose an unfortunate conflict between him and Nobile, who considered himself coleader of the Norge expedition, whereas according to the contracts he had been the paid captain of the airship. In his autobiography Amundsen denounced Nobile’s attitude and took opportunity to give vent to some of his bitterness against ROALD AMUNDSEN

The last flight Amundsen’s autobiography stirred up some dust and before this had had time to settle Nobile had started an expedition of his own with a sister ship of the Norge, the Itulia. After a flight from Spitsbergen to Severnaya Zemlya (North Land), which did not reach its objective, the Itulia attained the Pole on May 23, 1928, but on the return trip she was forced down and wrecked. No accurate information as to where the disaster had happened was available, but rescue operations had to be started right away. Amundsen offered his services, hoping to be put in charge of the operations to be undertaken by the Norwegian Government, but airplanes had to be used and the only suitable ones belonged to the Norwegian Navy. It was considered that they could not be commanded by a civilian and to Amundsen’s great disappointment Lieutenant Riiser-Larsen, his companion in 1925 and 1926, was put in charge. Amundsen was still eager to take part in the search and he gladly agreed to go to Spitsbergen with a French plane of the Latham type, piloted by Gilbaud. Amundsen had still one great worry left, his debts from the unfortunate years 1923-5 had not yet been paid in full. He had planned to sell his many gold medals to cover the remaining amount and before he left Oslo to join the Latham his last words to his attorney were : “Make me a free man”. Before leaving Tromso he got word that the Historical Museum of Oslo had been able to buy his collection for a sum that was barely sufficient to satisfy his creditors. He was again a free man. Experts were convinced that the Latham was not suitable for the purpose, but time was short. Wisting and Dietrichson should both have gone with Amundsen, but there was room for only one of them and the choice fell on the flyer, Dietrichson. On June 18 the Latham left Tromso. For a few hours radio contact was maintained between the plane and Tromso, then silence followed. When the plane failed to reach Spitsbergen at the calculated hour, it was feared that it had been forced down at sea and that Amundsen and his companions were lost. Extensive search operations were undertaken, but only some wreckage of the plane was found. It was never learned exactly how Amundsen met death, but all that needs to be known is that he closed his career in an attempt to rescue a fellow explorer.

Appraisal Amundsen said of himself that he never became an arctic explorer, because since he was fifteen years old all his thoughts and his energy had been directed toward one goal- the expansion of our knowledge of the polar regions. Circumstances made it necessary for him to change plans and make detours, but after he had sailed through the Northwest Passage, his one all-absorbing idea from 1908 to 1926 was to cross the Arctic Ocean and reach the North Pole. The attainment of the South Pole was incidental. Amundsen was not a scientist and he never claimed to be one. He was interested in securing accurate information wherever he travelled and in giving specialists opportunities to c‘arry out observations on his expeditions, but he cared little for their conclusions and even less for their theories. When he talked about men of science he had met, he would stress their personal characteristics and not their scientific accomplishments. Thoroughness in planning, meticulous attention to details, and nearly fussy orderliness combined with bold initiative laid the foundations for Amundsen’s success. To this should be added his ability to select suitable companions and to gain their unqualified confidence in his leadership. In selecting his men he apparently looked for one particular characteristic: resourcefulness. When preparations were still in progress, he might ask a question about a difficult task or give a man an impossible assignment. If he got the answer “it can’t be done” he was through with the man then and there, but if the man later returned to the matter and explained how he had tried to tackle the problem, Amundsen was satisfied even if the result was entirely negative. On his expeditions Amundsen demanded of his men a punctuality and orderliness corresponding to his own. During the Maud Expedition he himself worked as cook for two years with the members of the party alternating as mess boys. Never was the galley more shining and orderly, with every pot and other utensil in its proper place. He established a strict daily routine broken only by festive occasions during which he more than anyone else knew how to create a congenial atmosphere. His men loved him. Amundsen’s financial troubles stood in sharp contrast to his meticulous orderliness in other matters. His apparent carelessness in handling money probably stemmed from his attitude that regarded money as a necessary evil of no value of its own. To this must be added that, like many other great explorers, he believed in his own mission, and when funds were not forthcoming from expected sources he was inclined to ascribe this to lack of appreciation or even to take it as a personal affront. His belief in himself was his greatest strength, without which he could not have attained his goals. This belief combined with his great sensitivity was also a weakness that in the course of time made him a bitter and lonely man. Occasionally he was imposed upon by publicity seekers and such experiences made him suspicious of anyone who approached him. He had to pay a high price for his success: his faith in human nature. Still, to his few personal friends he was the most warm-hearted, hospitable, generous, and charming person. Few men have during their whole life followed a single line with greater perseverance or greater success. The glory of his death together with the brilliancy of his many achievements have placed Amundsen forever in the foremost rank of the great explorers. ---


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