Sunday, December 14, 2014

Yo, Roald Amundsen! Happy South Pole Day . . . .

Hats off to Roald Amundsen, the most accomplished polar explorer of them all. One hundred and three years ago today, on Dec. 14, 1911, he reached the geographical South Pole as leader of the first Antarctic expedition to do so. Fifteen years later, in 1926, he also became the first to reach the North Pole -- at least if you disbelieve the claims of Robert Peary and Frederick Cook. And, yes, in 1903-06, Amundsen became the first to navigate the Northwest Passage. In so doing, he sailed through Rae Strait, which the Scottish-Orcadian John Rae had discovered half a century before. Amundsen reached the South Pole 33 days before a competing expedition led by Robert Falcon Scott, thanks in part to what he had learned from the Inuit (especially about using dogs) while spending two winters at what is now Gjoa Haven. This photo, taken earlier this year by Sheena Fraser McGoogan, finds Our Hero out front of Amundsen's house, which is now a museum. Situated on the water some distance outside Oslo, it remains exactly as Amundsen left it in 1928, when he set out on a rescue mission from which he would never return. Tip of the day: do not try to reach Amundsen's house without a GPS.

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