This is a paper that I wrote some time ago. It is written as though it was an article, in a newspaper. It still has a great deal of valid information though. I hope it is of some use!!!



Three months ago, on December the 14, 1911, 5 men witnessed the planting of the first flag, the Norwegian flag, at the South Pole. At first it was commonly believed that Robert Scott was going to be the first man to reach the pole, but reports have been confirmed. It is now official. Roald Amundsen, a Norwegian, has planted the first flag at the South Pole. We have received many letters asking about the story behind this amazing feat. After several request, Mr. Amundsen gave us this account of his travels, thus far. Unfortunately, he gave it to us in Norwegian, so we do not have all of it translated. Here is what we have so far.

In Nov. 1909, Amundsen heard about Peary’s success at reaching the North Pole. He was somewhat frustrated about this, because his plan had been to drift over the pole in his ship, the Fram. Now, he decided that he was going to go to the South Pole.

News had already been around that Robert Scott was going to try to do this. Amundsen, however, felt no fear that he would be beaten. However, what he did fear was that if the media found out about his plans for an attempt, he would be swamped with people asking about it, and the project would be stifled, before its birth. So, to prevent this, Amundsen told only his brother, in whose silence he could have blind faith. He was so secretive about it, that the only other man to know of the change in plans was the ship's commander, Lieutenant Thorval Nilsen. Amundsen kept his plans so secret that only these two men, along with Lieutenants Prestrud and Gjertsen (told on the eve of the FRAM'S departure) knew about it. The FRAM departed Christiana on August 9, 1910. By the time the rest of the men found out about the change of plans, they were in Madeira, supposedly on the way to Buenos Aires and then northwards to the Arctic. Supposedly, the Madeira trip had been made for oceanographical research.

(Some information could not be translated.)

(Continued from the spot where translation could reoccur. Date is August 24)

By the 24th, the sun had begun to reappear, and the spirits were lifted as the crew prepared to leave Framheim. However, luck was not with the crew and for another 2 months, storms battered their camp. The weather had to be clear for their first run to the 80°S depot, or there was a real risk of missing it. Finally, on Friday, September 8, 1911, they sped off across the snow; eight men with sledges pulled by 86 dogs; only Lindstrom was left behind as custodian of Framheim. They covered 31 miles over the next three days. However, on the morning of the 11th they awoke to frigid temperatures nearing -70°F. By the next day, conditions were even worse as the fluid in their compasses froze solid. Amundsen determined that it was simply too risky to continue on towards the Pole. That evening a decision was made to make a run for the depot, weather permitting, unload their sleds and race back to Framheim. The weather co-operated and they arrived at the depot on Thursday. The next evening Hanssen and Stubberud discovered their heels were frostbitten. As well, a number of the dogs were suffering from the cold; two of the dogs froze to death in their sleep. So, 7:00 the next morning they set off for Framheim. In their race back, however, a mistake was made that would change the rest of the journey.

Now, normally the sleds would stay within sight of each other, but on the way back, the first two moved so fast that they lost sight of the rest. The sled teams continued to break up, with Bjaaland and Stubberud reaching Framheim first at 6 pm, followed two hours later by Amundsen's group. A half an hour after that Hassel arrived and six hours later, at 12:30 am, Johansen and Prestrud finally stumbled into camp. Johansen and Prestrud were totally exhausted, having found Framheim in the dark and fog only by following the barking of the dogs.

The next day, at breakfast, Amundsen finally succeeded in knocking the chip off Johansen's shoulder when Amundsen asked why it had taken them so long to make it back to Framheim. Johansen exploded, angrily accusing Amundsen of panicking and displaying poor leadership qualities when the group had been allowed to split up. In the dead silence that followed, Amundsen remained speechless. It was what Amundsen had always feared--a confrontation with the one man in the expedition with experience to equal his own. This brought to an end the harmony amongst all the men as Amundsen never forgave Johansen or spoke to him unless absolutely necessary.

(Some information could not be translated.)

(Continued from the spot where translation could reoccur.)

On December 8, with the sun shining brightly, they passed Shackelton’s farthest south, 88°23'S. They were only 95 miles from the South Pole. The dogs were hungry and exhausted, the men had many sores and frostbitten faces, yet still the party pushed on. The closer they came to the Pole, the more Amundsen worried that Scott had already beaten them. The temptation to race on, at full speed, was shared by everyone. At 3:00 pm, on Friday, December 14, 1911, there was a simultaneous cry of "Halt!" as the sledge meters registered their arrival at the South Pole. They had achieved their goal. Symbolic of their struggle in unity, each of the men, with their weathered and frostbitten hands, grasped the Norwegian flag and planted it firmly at the geographical South Pole. Amundsen named the plain King Haakon VII's Plateau. There were festivities in the tent that evening with each man sharing a little seal meat. At midnight observations were taken that put them at 89° 56'S.

At noon, on December 17, the observations had been completed and it was certain the men had done all that could be done. In order to come a few inches closer to the actual Pole, Hanssen and Bjaaland went out four geographical miles and promptly returned. Bjaaland surprised Amundsen when he pulled out a cigar-case full of cigars at dinner. A cigar at the Pole! Following the festival dinner, preparations for departure began. A tent was erected, naming it Poleheim, with Amundsen leaving a message inside for Scott, along with a letter for King Haakon. Thirty-nine days later the party returned to Framheim, as planned, with all five men and 11 dogs "hale and hearty". The month-long voyage back to Tasmania was a frustrating time for Amundsen, who was now quite anxious to be the first to announce the news of their achievement. On March 7, 1912, Amundsen finally cabled his brother Leon with the historic news.

Now, as we wait for Amundsen to return, we look forward to hearing more about his adventures. We also look to hearing about Robert Scott. What amazing things have happened in the last five years, and what amazing things remain. To read the full story, watch your newspaper and magazines, and look for our special collectors set, with photos and stories about both North and South pole exhibitions, which should be coming out sometime next month.

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