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Roald Amundsen

Roald Amundsen (July 16, 1872 - June 22, 1928) was a Norwegian polar explorer. He was the first person to fly over the North Pole in a steerable self-propelled airship, a blimp (May 11-13, 1926). He was also the first person to reach the South Pole, making him the first person to reach both the North- and South Poles.

Amundsens father was a doctor and wanted his son to follow in his footsteps. His father died when he was 14 years old and when his mother died when he was 21 he gave up on his father’s dreams and stopped studying medicine.

Instead he prepared for a trip to the Antarctic.

His first expedition was in 1987 when he was the first mate of the ship Belgica. It was a Belgian expedition which coincidentally was the first one to overwinter in Antarctica. The ship was caught in ice and had to wait until the ice melted to head back home.

His first journey as a leader of an expedition was in 1903. His goal was to find the Northwest Passage, which he successfully did, and go to the North Magnetic Pole. He took his ship, Gjoa, and a crew of 6 with him.

They sailed from Oslo in Norway and stayed in the Arctic for three years, where they mapped the area, built ships and learned survivor skills from Netsilik Indians.

Amundsen next set his sight on the North Pole. He had borrowed the famous ship Fram from another Arctic explorer, Fridtjof Nansen. But he was too late. News broke out that Robert Peary had indeed been the first to the pole.

Amundsen then decided his ambition should be to reach the South Pole first. He faced stiff competition from Robert Scott who planned the same thing at a similar time.

Amundsen set up a base camp at the Bay of Wales (by the Ross Ice Shelf). On December 14, 1911, Amundsen and his crew made it to the South Pole on dog sleds returning to their base camp on January 25, 1912 covering unbelievable 1,860 miles in 99 days.

On their return journey, Scott and his four comrades all passed away from a combination of exhaustion, starvation and extreme cold.

Even after his success, Amundsen was still eager to do more. He travelled in the Arctic doing scientific research for some time, and then began to pursue a new goal; to be the first to fly over the North Pole. With financing from the millionaire explorer Lincoln Ellsworth, they had many unsuccessful tries.

Richard Evelyn Byrd eventually reached the North Pole by plane in May, 1926. When Byrd returned Spitsbergen, Norway, Amundsen and Byrd met. Two days later, May 11, 1926, Amundsen left for the North Pole in a dirigible (blimp) designed and flown by the Italian explorer, pilot and engineer Umberto Nobile. Amundsen and Nobile reached the North Pole on May 11. Although they had some weather and mechanical troubles, they eventually returned to Point Barrow, Alaska, on May 14.

Amundsen died in a plane crash in the summer of 1928, while attempting to rescue his friend Nobile, who had been lost in a dirigible crash in the Arctic. Nobile was found and rescued by another search crew.

Amundsen was 55 years old when he died.

Sources: The Arctic by Richard Sale Polar Reaches by RIchard Sale Science Nordic

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