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Roald Amundsen – The man who conquested the last frontier of the world

by Maximino Gómez Alvarez

Roald Engelbregt Gravning Amundsen, was born in Borge a small town on the outskirts of Oslo, Norway, then a nation unit to Sweden, on July 16 1872; Amundsen came from a family linked to maritime trade in the North Sea and from a young age showed a deep attraction for polar adventure; among his favorite characters stood out figures such as Fridtjof Nancen, who had participated in various Antarctic expeditions. In 1890, the young Admusen began the medical studies to try to fulfill his mother’s wishes, but when she died in 1893, he left the university, embarking on an expedition of seal hunters where he consolidated his marine formation.

With only twenty-five years old, he was part of the Belgian Antarctic Expedition (1897), whose purpose was to carry out the recognition of the Antarctic continent. He sailed aboard of ship „Belgium“ as a helmsman. This expedition was trapped in the cold southern winter, where two long and distressing years passed.

As a result of that experience, Amundsen began to outline his own Project, the “Northeast Pass”, which he executed with a small sailboat purchased by him and with a crew of only six sailors. With this, his first personal expedition, crossed the Northeast Passage between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. During his exploration activities, Amundsen came into contact with the Netsilik, from whom he learned his survival techniques and the use of dog-drawn sleds. Amundsen had planned to make an expedition to the North Pole aboard the vessel Fram, owned by the exploited Fridtjof Nansen, which he had already used in several explorations in the Arctic; but Admausen, upon learning that Robert Peary had advanced in his purpose, turns his eyes towards Antarctica in order to reach the South Pole. At first, the Norwegian did not make public his change of plans, fearing that Nansen refuse to provide the Fram for the Antarctic voyage; however, upon learning, Nansen gave his full support to the expedition. Amundsen telegraphed the news of his expedition to Robert Falcon Scott, another famous explorer who sought to reach the South Pole and who will become his rival in achieving first that goal. Thus begins the race for the conquest of the South Pole. As early as January 1911, Admunsen reaches the Bay of Whales, where the long austral night will pass. The 19 of October of 1911 leaves the expedition, with only five men, who cross unknown places, full of accidents like cracks and glaciers with temperatures that reached the -56º, in spite of which they manage to reach the expected position at 15:00 hours of September 11, 1911. The British expedition ran worse luck Scoot and his men not only did not reach their goals of being the first to conquer the South Pole, if not, who also lost their lives in that attempt. Upon his return, Admunsen was hailed by his people, but there was always a detachment by the British towards him, for having snatched from the English explorer Scoot the glory of being the first explorer to reach the South Pole.

Upon returning to his country Admunsen was congratulated and vituperated, but there was always a cold feeling towards him on the part of the British. Admusen never gave up his life of adventures and continued making several more expeditions, he was among the first to fly over the North Pole, promoting polar exploration by aerial means.

Admunsen lost his life in 1928 when the plane he was piloting crashed, trying to locate the survivors of the Umbeerto Nobile airship that had fatally disappeared on his return from the North Pole. The Norwegian explorer became one, if not the most important figure of the so-called Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration.