Roald Amundsen, the man from the north who conquered the south

Amundsen at the South Pole with the Fram.

Amundsen at the South Pole with the Fram.
National Geographic

Roald Amundsen had been born in the cold country, too late for his name to be written in history alongside that of Columbus, Magellan or Darwin. There was no more land left on the globe to discover. The African continent had already been traversed, studied and drilled by French and English explorers. The sources of the main rivers had also been plowed by skilled sailors. The Amazon by the Spanish. The Nile and the Ganges by the English. The Danube by the Romans. He had dreamed of finding, after a long journey, a buried civilization, the origin of the Vikings and the peoples of Lapland. He came up with the idea of ​​undertaking the conquest of the North Pole by reading the diary of an Austro-Hungarian captain, who between 1872 and 1874 had tried to reach the polar reaches on a scientific journey. The result was a failure, but at least they discovered one of the last lands before the mass of ice covered everything. It is about the Land of Francisco José, an inhospitable place where only a few birds of passage, foxes and lazy walruses live.

Amundsen and Scott Expeditions.

That was why he had prepared himself conscientiously to take part in the last great feat of man. He hired a team of Norwegian adventurers, just like he was. He warned them of the extreme cold, hunger and loneliness of snow. They would leave that same year of 1908 and it would be the definitive test. It was not the first time I tried. Years before, in 1897, they had embarked on a Belgian expedition to the center of the North Pole, but they had been trapped in the ice. They did not die of scurvy thanks to the fact that an American doctor, Frederick Cook, gave them raw seal meat. He would remember his name in more bitter moments. Failure, however, had inoculated him with the greatest bane man can feel: the need to travel. In 1903 he managed to open the Northwest Passage with a ship that he himself had acquired. He had linked the route of the Atlantic and the Pacific, skimming Canada and avoiding the icebergs that broke off the polar cap.

But he felt a blow that took his breath away. When he had everything ready to sail, he read in the newspaper that F. Cook he had come forward and claimed to have taken possession of the northernmost point on the planet. It was that doctor who had saved their lives years before.

Amundsen didn’t have much of a choice, a man who was willing to do anything to be in the history books. He continued with the expedition and silenced a script twist to his crew. The Norwegian Government had decided to participate in the financing, therefore, on the hull of their ship was a piece of national pride.


South Pole, account of the Norwegian expedition to Antarctica of the Fram, 1910-1912. Roald Amundsen, Interfolio

They left Kristiansand at the controls of the Fram, a wooden ship so elegant it seemed to be made of ivory. The ship had already crossed the icy waters of the North Atlantic on several routes, but a very different destination awaited it. The entire crew, including the dogs that were to pull the sleds, were surprised at the captain’s command. The Fram headed south, until making a technical stop in Funchal and, after stocking up, it continued to descend in the opposite direction to the established one. In a few days, they had reached the Bay of Whales, a beautiful and desolate place that inaugurated one of the greatest follies that any human being had done: they were going to cross Antarctica to the central point.

The first thing they did was build a base in the same bay. They named it Framheim after the ship that had brought them there. In the following monthsBefore the nights became eternal, another expedition with the same objective, led by the Englishman Robert Falcon Scott, landed on the Antarctic shores. He had started the race to be the last man to conquer legendary territory.


Amundsen. Espen Sandberg, 2019

After winter passed, the expeditions parted ways. Scott chose to go through the Shackleton Glacierwhile Amundsen had set out to scale a 450-meter mountain that loomed before him. I would call her Axel Heiberg. As they advanced the cold became more extreme. Their fingers and toes were barely felt. The sled dogs fainted and were buried by the snow. They reached temperatures of minus 50 degrees. Breathing became a knife scraping at the throat. Despite faint spirits, Amundsen arrived on December 14, 1911. He looked at the sky and felt estranged from Humanity, the one in which he wanted to leave memory. During all that day, he did not see Scott. In the camp they had set up, he left supplies in case they ever arrive. It took the Englishman a month to crown the route. From a distance he observed a red dot that was flapping in the wind. It was the flag of Norway. That was how Scott knew that the second had arrived for his appointment with history. Amundsen had conquered his own destiny. He was born late and would never discover the sources of the Nile, but all previous failures led him to complete an illusory expedition that humans had forgotten as impossible.

The man born in the northernmost country He had conquered the south of the Earth.


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