Ernest Shackleton (left), Robert Peary and Roald Amundsen meet in Philadelphia, USA, 1913.  Ed Webster collection/ Hedgehog House

Roald Amundsen - polar explorer

Norwegian flag, Longyearbyen, Svalbard

              Photo: Colin Monteath

Cover of Roald Amundsen’s original Norwegian edition Sydpolen

- The South Pole. Hedgehog House archive

“ Stumbling wide at the limits of the compass

Fur and canvas in the wilderness of pain

You can lose your mind in the panic of snow blindness

Icy winds strike you deaf and numb

                          - at the midnight sun.

None but cowards seek badges of courage

Only fools seek the trappings of fame

There’s no conquest, just an endless striving

There’s no glory, just a restless flame.

No man’s land, white desert, ice mountains

Beyond the pole, let the reckless come

Bathed in light, an infinity of silence

Cleanse the soul, leave the senses stunned

                                - at the midnight sun.”

Australian band Red Gum song Midnight Sun

The British, meanwhile, had set out from Cape Evans, Ross Island, on 1 November 1911. In various combinations, they employed dogs, tractors, and Manchurian ponies as well as a support party of men to cross the Ross Ice Shelf on a route pioneered by Scott in 1902. Scott’s Pole party then ascended the highly crevassed and wind-polished ice of the Beardmore Glacier (discovered and traversed by Ernest Shackleton’s British Nimrod expedition in 1908) before finally reaching the South Pole on 17 January 1912.

Utterly dejected at finding Amundsen’s tent and fully aware of what the loss of priority at the Pole meant for themselves and the British Empire, they set off homeward facing grim prospects. Injury, gradual starvation and a deep penetrating cold were constant companions. All five perished on the Ross Ice Shelf  during  February and March 1912, the final trio including Scott himself dying in their tent 11 n.m short of a depot. By then, Amundsen was in the warmth of Australia giving lectures.

Over the past 100 years there has been a near-constant analysis of what is often called the ‘race to the Pole’, comparing Scott’s seemingly flawed planning with the clinical efficiency displayed by Amundsen. Whatever one’s views on the merits of relying primarily on ponies instead of huskies to travel across what can be nightmarishly soft snow on the Ross Ice Shelf, it is indisputable that dogs can be fed to dogs to keep going (Amundsen’s plan) while all the food for ponies must be carried on sledges. (In 1910 the efficiency of the tractor engine left much to be desired - although now vehicles powered by internal combustion engines make most polar journeys).

Amundsen’s use of huskies and his method of travel with them proved masterful. As a great many Norwegians spend their entire youth perfecting the most refined aspects of skiing, Amundsen’s carefully selected team was able to glide almost effortlessly beside the dogs. Skiing for hour after hour was a vital skill on a journey (skis 244 cm long - extra length to help spread weight when crossing small crevasses), as it took the body weight of five men off the sledges. (Scott’s men didnt ride their sledges either but they coudn’t glide on skis as they had to constantly pull the full weight of the sledges from the front.)

Captain Scott’s 1910-12 Cape Evans base, windcloud over Mt Erebus behind , Ross Island.

Photo: Colin Monteath /

           Norwegian Sjur Mordre skiing beside husky team on featureless surface (Greenland icesheet)

                  Note tiny dot of skier out in front to help guide the dogs Photo: Colin Monteath

A husky’s line of sight is not far above the snow and as such they get easily bored or disoriented especially if running across featureless, relatively flat terrain when there is blowing snow at ground level. Olav Bjaaland was a Norwegian ski champion so, by staying out in front of the dogs almost the whole way as a target for them to aim at, he made a crucial difference.  In addition to the energy-saving nature of skiing, Amundsen’s success hinged on his reliance on wearing loose-fitting, windproof fur clothing.  Heat generated by the work of skiing is retained inside fur garments and crucially, given the constant brutal cold of the Polar Plateau, excess sweating can be kept to a minimum. (Amundsen did make the mistake of depoting his crampons which could have been a costly error given the large areas of hard bare ice in Antarctica).

Conversely, the British were more traditionally clad in woolens and gabardine windproofs. Outfitted this way, Scott’s party was weakened on the return leg by various factors including less and less calorific intake, in part a result of inadequate rations. There was also a lack of fuel due to leaking fuel cans which added enormous stress to the process of melting snow for hydration and cooking what food they had. Amazingly, when death stared them in the face, they failed to lighten the sledges by depoting their rock samples. This all added up to being beaten by the cold.

It was prophetic that during the previous winter at Cape Evans, Scott’s right hand man, surgeon and artist Edward Wilson, painted a scene depicting the polar party - five men hauling a sledge, each wearing skis. This painting was done months before Scott made the last-minute decision to increase his party from four to five, in spite of the planned food and fuel being calculated to support four. Somehow, circumstance dictated that, for a party of five, they only took four pairs of skis. Antarctica does not forgive mistakes like that.

Scott’s men achieved much in Antarctica including superb exploratory forays into the Transantarctic Mountains, ground-breaking scientific observation around Ross Island and, later, a treasure-trove of quality scientific and geographic literature with comprehensive maps. But when it came to the actual Pole journey itself, some of Scott’s thinking has to be considered muddled. Despite two winters in Antarctica and hard lessons learned on the 1901 Discovery Expedition Scott remained a ambitious Royal Navy officer without a significant aptitude or affinity for dealing with polar terrain. One of Scott’s men, Apsley Cherry-Garrard, who later wrote the time-honoured classic The Worst Journey in the World,  described the Pole party as ‘They were an Epic’.

Manhauling sledges in the polar regions can be surprisingly efficient but it can also be brutally hard work, especially with heavy sledges, poor snow conditions or battling into strong winds. Photos: Colin Monteath / Hedgehog house

                  AMUNDSEN - HIS LIFE’S QUEST

“I cannot say...(Amundsen was later to write of his attainment of the South Pole) that I stood at my life’s goal. I believe no human being has stood so diametrically opposed to the goal of his desires as I did...the North Pole had attracted me since the days of my childhood...can anything more perverse be conceived?”  It was indeed a bitter irony for Amundsen to end up in Antarctica for, reluctantly, he had given up his North Pole ambitions after separate claims by American’s Frederick Cook in 1908 and Robert Peary in 1909. 

Aboard Fram, borrowed from his fellow Norwegian explorer Fridjtof Nansen, Amundsen secretly turned his pre-planned Arctic Ocean drift expedition southwards, away from the Arctic. It was while Scott was in Melbourne en route to Lyttelton to join his ship Terra Nova bound for the Ross Sea, that he received the fateful pre-arranged telegram signed by Amundsen “Beg leave to inform you, am proceeding South”.  

Fram reached Bay of Whales on the eastern side of the Ross Ice Shelf in the late summer of 1911 and the Norwegians lost no time in setting up  Framheim. Before the onset of winter Amundsen used dog teams drawn from their 100 huskies to lay four depots each a degree southwards across the Ross Ice Shelf, the final one at 82〫South.

From bitter experience Amundsen knew the importance of keeping team members working to a busy schedule during the dark winter months. In ice chambers beneath the snowdrifts around Framheim that reached a steamy 14〫C they steadily modified each piece of clothing and sledging equipment, trimming every excess gram. Expert skier, Bjaaland was also a skilled carpenter who significantly reduced the weight of each sledge. (Scott used the same Norwegian sledges but didn’t modify them). Hot-blooded Scandinavians to the core, the winterers at Framheim also touted a much-loved sauna.

Eager to get underway, Amundsen made the mistake of setting out for the Pole too early, leaving Framheim on 8 September. Early spring is Antarctica’s coldest time of year, so, frostbitten and severely chastened after only eight days on the trail, Amundsen limped back to Framheim to await lengthening daylight and warmer days. It was during this foray that Amundsen fell out with the highly critical Hjalmar Johansen, a veteran of Nansen’s famous 1893-96 Arctic drift expedition in Fram. (Leaving the ship, Johansen was Nansen’s partner on an attempt to reach the North Pole with dogs and kayaks). Amundsen removed Johansen from his South Pole party and ordered him to explore King Edward VII Land with Kristian Prestrud.

Amundsen and his four companions, together with 52 huskies and four sledges, finally set out for the Pole on 19 October 1911. It was a bonus that Framheim was 54 n.m. closer to the Pole than Scott’s base on Ross Island. Of greater significance, however, the Norwegians found the Ross Ice Shelf easy going for, contrary to their expectations, having read Scott’s 1901 Discovery and Shackleton’s 1909 Nimrod expedition reports, they found the surface smooth, ideal for skiing and driving dogs. For Roald Amundsen, as one biographer wrote, this journey was simply ‘ski racing writ large’.


Roald Engelbregt Gravning Amundsen was born at Borge, Norway in 1872, growing up in the capital Christiana (now Oslo). From an early age Amundsen modeled himself on Fridjtof Nansen, a founding father of Norwegian polar exploration (Nansen was the first to ski across Greenland in 1888 and from 1893-96 he attempted to reach the North Pole from his purpose-built, round-bottomed ship Fram (Forward) that was intentionally frozen into the sea ice to drift across the Arctic Ocean). The art of skiing is deeply embedded in Norway’s national psyche so, even from a young age, it was natural that Roald perfected his cross-country skiing technique. He also took pride in toughening himself up during Scandinavian winters, hence his childhood nickname ‘The Arctic explorer’. 

Amundsen first went to the Arctic in 1894 aboard a sealing ship, however two years later, now a qualified mate, he made his first expedition to Antarctica aboard Belgica under the Belgian scientist Adrien de Gerlache. The voyage turned to near-disaster when the ship inadvertently spent the winter trapped in pack-ice south of Peter I Oy (Island) beyond the southern rim of the Antarctic Peninsula (now called Bellingshausen Sea). Not only was the Belgica expedition (1897-99) the first to winter south of the  Antarctic Circle, Amundsen and the ships’s doctor, the American Frederick Cook, made the first Antarctic sledging journey (on Brabant Island) and the first forays in a sea kayak (hand-crafted on board). Amundsen long credited Cook with staving off insanity and scurvy among the crew during what was a dreadful winter. He also later visited Cook in jail in USA after he had been convicted of tax fraud. By this time Cook had also been discredited for falsifying his claims on reaching the summit of Denali (Mt McKinley), the highest peak in North America and, in 1908, the North Geographic Pole.

Founding father of Norwegian polar exploration Fridtjof Nansen and two of his book covers,

     The First Crossing of Greenland and Nansen’s Farthest North. Hedgehog House archive

                  A GRAND PRIZE

For over 300 years, the North West Passage, the fabled sea route linking Europe with Asia across the top of the Americas, had turned back, trapped or destroyed numerous well equipped expeditions by the Royal Navy, most notably, in 1845, that of the illustrious Sir John Franklin. (Climate change and the consequent loss of sea ice have now brought both the North West and North East Passages into economic prominence.) 

From 1903-06 Amundsen was expedition leader and master of the 45 ton wooden-hulled 21 metre sloop Gjøa (largely sail powered but with a 13 HP engine) that successfully sailed through the entire North West Passage, wintering three times en route to the Bering Strait. It was here that Amundsen learned from the Inuit how to drive dog teams and the importance of wearing fur clothing to combat extreme temperatures. Gjøa’s crew of only six included Helmer Hanssen, who became one of Amundsen’s sledging mates to the South Pole.

In 1918, six years after reaching the South Pole, Amundsen was back in the Arctic. Aboard Maud, Amundsen set out to negotiate the North East Passage, a sea route that links the northern coast of Europe with the Bering Strait between Siberia and Alaska and the Pacific Ocean. Maud had two aircraft aboard, though both crashed during the expedition, no doubt thwarting Amundsen’s rising desire to fly over the North Pole. After two difficult winters, Amundsen  reached Nome, Alaska. This was only the fourth transit of the North East Passage since 1879 when the Swede Nils Nordenskjold completed his famous voyage in Vega that went on to circumnavigate Europe and Asia.

Dog-tired , Norwegians pitch tents while huskies rest Photo: Colin Monteath

Fram , Oslo museum, Norway

Scott’s Eastern party on Terra Nova meets Amundsen’s Fram at Bay of Whales. Painting by Sir Wally Herbert /

In 1961/62, after a 95 day sledging trip across the Polar Plateau above the Beardmore and Shackleton glaciers and an ascent of Mt Fridtjof Nansen (4070 metres) New Zealand dog handlers and surveyors Wally Herbert and Peter Otway together with geologist Vic McGregor and mountaineer Kevin Pain sledged down  the Axel Heiberg Glacier from Polar Plateau to Ross Ice Shelf.  Photos: Peter Otway / Hedgehog House

                                 TAKES TO THE AIR

Though never a pilot himself, Amundsen next turned to the air to explore the central Arctic Ocean. By now, perhaps craving accolades and the perceived wealth that may accompany such a feat, Amundsen wanted to fly over the North Pole, a geographical ‘first’ that beckoned tantalisingly over a blinding wilderness of sea ice. Unlike his mentor Nansen, Amundsen had not found financial success from his writing and lectures and faced being hounded by rising debt. A fortuitous meeting with the wealthy American aviator Lincoln Ellsworth in New York suddenly changed Amundsen’s luck. (Later, in 1935, Lincoln Ellsworth made the first flight across Antarctica).

In 1925, Amundsen and Ellsworth teamed up to attempt a flight to Alaska via the Pole from the outpost of Ny Alesund at 79〫North on Svalbard, the main island on Norway’s archipelago of Spitsbergen. Both seaplanes were forced to crash land on the sea ice near 88〫North. Amundsen’s book Our Polar Flight documents the drawn-out battle with repairs that followed.  Their pilot Hjalmer Riiser-Larsen finally succeeded in getting one aircraft airborne with all six aboard, taking off from a crude runway hewn through rough ice. 

The next year Amundsen and Ellsworth were back at Ny Alesund. This time, the plan was to fly right across the Arctic Ocean in the dirigible hydrogen airship Norge (Norway). Norge was built and piloted by the Italian Umberto Nobile who flew it from Italy over northern Europe to Leningrad then on to tether it to a mast at Ny Alesund built by the ground crew working alongside Amundsen and Ellsworth. For the North Pole flight Norge had a crew of 12 (plus Nobile’s dog Titina) including, once again, Hjalmer Riiser-Larsen, this time as navigator. 

On 12 May 1926, after only a 16 hour flight, Norge succeeded in flying over the North Pole, at which time Norwegian, American and Italian flags were dropped to the sea ice below. Amundsen and crew member Oscar Wisting (a member of Amundsen’s South Pole party) became the first to see both geographic poles. After a 72 hour flight Norge finally landed at Teller, Alaska. Amundsen’s book The First Crossing of the Polar Sea (1927) describes this first flight from Europe to the Americas across the Arctic, a journey that traversed 3000 n.m. of unexplored polar terrain.

It is worth noting that on 9 May, a few days before Norge set off for the North Pole,
another ambitious aviator took off from Ny Alesund, this one being even more eager 
than Amundsen to claim the Pole as his own. A young American military officer, 
Richard Byrd, and his pilot Floyd Bennett made a flight northward in Josephine 
Ford, a Fokker tri-motor aircraft. Upon landing again at Ny Alesund both Amundsen and Ellsworth simply smiled at each other when Byrd claimed to have flown over the Pole. Both knew that in the time the Fokker had been airborne it could not possibly have made the return flight. Though Byrd was widely celebrated for his achievement at the time, it is now generally accepted that he falsified his navigational records. The Norwegian pilot Bernt Balchen, who acted as ground crew for Byrd at Ny Alesund, was, among others, later prominent in discrediting Byrd’s claim. (In 1929, Balchen piloted Commander Byrd’s aircraft on the alleged first overflight of the South Pole).  

Despite a long-lasting and bitter controversy that subsequently erupted between Amundsen and Nobile over the credit for the success of Norge’s trans-Arctic flight, Amundsen joined the search for Nobile in May 1928, after his airship Italia crashed somewhere on Arctic sea ice. Amundsen, together with five French aviators took off from Tromso, in northern Norway on 18 June 1928. Amundsen’s Latham aircraft never reached Svalbard and all six were  presumed lost at sea. But did Amundsen really die near Bjorn Oya??? this space....
                                    AMUNDSEN’S LEGACY  
                                        THE MODERN ERA

I would give anything to have stood with Ernest Shackleton and his sledging companions Frank Wild, Jameson Adams and Eric Marshall in December 1908 when the British explorers reached the head of Beardmore Glacier, gateway to the Polar Plateau - that great white heart of the Earth.

Shackleton’s ponies floundered though they helped the British explorers reach the névé of the Beardmore, the start point for a manhauling journey across the Plateau towards the South Pole - a venture that, in its day, was as bold as the quest for the moon a mere 60 years later.

Shackleton’s men didn’t reach the Pole, turning back at 88〫South, roughly 100 n.m. from the Pole, but they could smell it - it was within their grasp, the ground broken, the gate open.  For Robert Scott, who faced the enormity and uncertainty of a route beyond the Ross Ice Shelf in 1902, the psychological barrier was down. Given Amundsen’s upbringing plus his four previous winter’s experience in the polar regions, it has been said that the planting of the Norwegian flag at the Pole in 1911 was almost a formality. Rightly, though, the Norwegian tipped his hat to Shackleton as pioneer, writing “Sir Ernest Shackleton’s name will always be written in the annals of Antarctic exploration in letters of fire”.


Norge airship with Amundsen, Ellsworth and Nobile on board airborne over Ny Alesund, Svalbard, 1926.

In the intervening 100 years Norwegians have continued to demonstrate finesse and élan in the planning and style of their journeys to both North and South Poles. In some cases the South Pole was merely a brief interlude in a much longer traverse. Most of these traverses have only been possible since 1985 due to the advent of Antarctica’s first private aviation company, Adventure Network International. But the first major  traverse of note was achieved entirely with her own resources...

                                             MONIKA KRISTENSEN’S  
                                                  90〫 SOUTH EXPEDITION 

In 1986 Norwegian glaciologist Monica Kristensen planned to retrace Amundsen’s journey from Bay of Whales to the South Pole. Kristensen had her own ship, Aurora, that sailed from Lyttelton carrying supplies, a helicopter and huskies. She also deployed a Twin Otter aircraft that flew from Invercargill towards the Ross Sea. At the limit of its fuel, the utterly committed ski-plane landed on a tabular iceberg. There it was refueled from drums lifted by Aurora’s helicopter before being flown on to the Ross Ice Shelf to help lay depots. On an expedition that never planned to face a winter on the continent, Kristensen did succeed in driving her dogs up the Axel Heiberg Glacier onto the Polar Plateau. Slowed by glaciological equipment however, and with a nervous captain who didnt want his ship trapped in the pack ice, Kristensen ultimately turned back shy of the Pole.

By 1990 the Norwegians were back with style when brothers Simen and Sjur Mordre drove huskies to the South Pole from the Weddell Sea coast. They flew the dogs out then skied on to complete a traverse of the continent by descending the Axel Heiberg Glacier and, with the help of kites to pull their sledges, reached New Zealand’s Scott Base on Ross Island.  Two years later, Norwegian Erling Kagge made the first solo ski trip to the Pole, flying out. Kagge, having also skied to the North Pole, was guided up Mt Everest by New Zealander Rob Hall in 1994, becoming the first to reach all ‘Three Poles’.

In 1994 Norwegian Liv Arnesen became first woman to ski solo to Pole, flying out. Arnesen returned in 2000, this time with American Ann Bancroft (who had already skied to North and South Poles). The duo attempted to cross Antarctica from the Weddell Sea to Ross Island but flew out after descending from the Pole to the Ross Ice Shelf, calling it quits well short of Ross Island.

It is worth noting that, in 1993, Englishmen Ran Fiennes and Mike Stroud made a 93 day manhaul journey from the Weddell Sea coast via the South Pole to the Ross Ice Shelf. From near the base of the Beardmore Glacier, close to the location reached by Arnesen and Bancroft, they were evacuated by aircraft, almost at the limit of their endurance. Strangely, Fiennes claimed the first unsupported crossing of Antarctica. By way of explanation, he felt that as there is technically sea water under the southernmost end of the 600 metre-thick Ross Ice Shelf, their pull-out point constituted the edge of the continent, - rationale, perhaps, akin to claiming an ascent of Everest without bothering to come down again. In fairness to Fiennes, he (and his late wife Ginny) masterminded the wonderful 1979/82 Transglobe expedition. Transglobe traversed the world on its polar axis via the Greenwich Meridian, completing the second crossing of Antarctica, this time on motorized skidoos (with his own aircraft and ship support) - a feat that all the polar pundits of the day said couldn’t be done. Remarkably, while raising funds for charity in recent years, Fiennes has been guided up the North Face of the Eiger and, on his second expedition to Everest in 2009, he reached the summit as a 65 year old.

                                      THE TRIUMPH
                            BORGE OUSLAND 
                                    1995 & 1997 

In 1995, Norwegian Borge Ousland, a one-time professional deep sea diver, skied solo to South Pole. On this trip he developed a serious rubbing in his groin so aborted his planned crossing of the continent, flying out. In 1997, Ousland was back and this time there were no mistakes, perfecting his discipline to maintain a strict routine. He completed a brilliant solo 1500 n.m. ski crossing of continent from Berkner Island to Ross Island in only 64 days. Ousland’s many achievements in the Arctic are equally impressive and he holds the distinction of being the first to ski solo and without depots to both Poles.

At the turn of the Millennium the Norskies just kept on coming. In 2000, Rolf Bae and Eirik Sonneland made an astounding traverse from the Dronning Maud Land Coast to Ross Island via the Pole (2050 n.m,105 days)  Sadly, in 2008, Bae died on K2 however in 2010 Bae’s wife Cecilie Skog and American Ryan Waters skied across Antarctica without the assistance of kites. Skog has climbed Everest and K2 and had previously reached both poles by ski (2005 & 06 ) with Bae.

Back in 2005, Norwegian Rune Gjednes completed a remarkable 2600 n.m. , 90 day, solo 
traverse from Queen Maud Land to the Pole then northward to the Italian base 
at Terra Nova Bay on the Victoria Land Coast. 

Ivar Tollefsen’s Norwegian expeditions in 1994 and 1997 also deserve mention, for although they didnt involve going to the Pole, these mountaineering expeditions were brilliant in their planning and execution  to what is a very remote part of Antarctica. Tollefson’s team broke new ground by pulling off multi-day big wall rock climbing routes on Queen Maud Land’s vertical-sided nunataks. They flew paragliders from several of the 36 summits climbed.

A few other nation’s non-mechanized traverses also stand out:  In 1989/90 German Arved Fuchs (no relation to Englishman Sir Vivian Fuchs who led the 1955-58 Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition,  the first crossing of the continent) and Italian mountaineering superstar Reinhold Messner completed the third traverse of continent, skiing from the Weddell Sea to Ross Island. 

Shackleton’s dream of crossing Antarctica with huskies was eventually achieved in 1989/90 when American Will Steger and Frenchman Jean-Louis Etienne teamed up to inspire an International Trans-Antarctic Expedition with members from USA, France, Britain, Japan, Russia and China. The six-man team and their huskies completed the fourth crossing of continent, this time by its longest axis, an astounding 3800 n.m. in seven months (utilizing depots prelaid by aircraft). 

It was, in part, to support this expedition that the massively-strong yacht Antarctica was built by Etienne in France. In 1993 Etienne skippered Antarctica on a voyage into the Ross Sea with an ascent of Mt Erebus as its main objective. Antarctica became the first sail-powered vessel (with auxilliary engines) to reach the inner sanctum of the Ross Sea since James Clark Ross’s vessels Erebus and Terror (no engines) in 1842. Antarctica was later renamed SeaMaster and used on a brief voyage to the Antarctic Peninsula by the New Zealand yachtsman the late Sir Peter Blake. Renamed again as Tara, the vessel completed a Nansen-style drift expedition across the Arctic Ocean in 2006-08, this time skippered by New Zealander Grant Redvers.

In 1997, the Belgians Alain Hubert and Dixie Dansercoer skied 1900 n.m. from Queen Maud Land via Pole to Ross Island while in 1998, Japan’s Mitsuro Oba skied 2000 n.m. solo from Queen Maud Land via the Pole to near the base of  the Antarctic Peninsula. Almost all of these modern expeditions have made extensive use of kites to help pull laden fibreglass ‘pulk’ sledges.

Most other traverses have relied on vehicles or aircraft to return from the South Pole, some inadvertently after mishap. Aircraft have been essential for expeditions that only planned a one way trip, urgently needed resupply or became stranded or exhausted and needed to escape from a tight spot, narrowly averting disaster.

Sadly, a tragic Norwegian expedition unfolded in the Ross Sea late in the 2010/11 summer when the yacht Berserk II dropped off its skipper Jarle Andhoy and Samuel Ulvolden near the US McMurdo Station. The pair set off on quad bikes to drive across the Ross Ice Shelf hoping to repeat something of Amundsen’s route to the South Pole. Meanwhile, to await Andhoy’s return, the yacht with its three man crew anchored near Cape Royds, Ross Island. Driven out in a storm, Berserk II apparently foundered, for, despite an extensive search, the empty life raft recovered offered no evidence as to the fate of the yacht. After evacuation by US aircraft to New Zealand Andhoy apparently made spurious claims of getting ‘close’ to the Pole.
                         SOUTH POLE EXPEDITION 

Supported by the Norwegian Polar Institute in Oslo and transported to their departure point by private aircraft, Vergard Ulvang, Jan-Gunnar Winther, Stein Aasheim and Harald Dag Jolle will set out on skis from the Bay of Whales on 19 October 2011, 100 years to the day since Amundsen’s departure. They plan to arrive at Polheim on precisely 14 December this year. 

One imagines that these Norwegians are cognizant of the fact that all the impressive ski traverses in recent years have carefully planned their manhauling route to make the maximum use of kites to pull the sledges. Wind-strength dictates the size of the canopy selected on any given leg with the kites powered by wind that flows due to gravity from the high ice domes in the interior of Antarctica. 

Without the benefit of Amundsen’s huskies, this expedition will no doubt grind its way southward across the Ross Ice Shelf, in all likelihood with the wind in their faces. Will these Norskies be able to match the daily distances achieved by Roald Amundsen? For sure, they will miss the smell of linseed oil on the rawhide sledge lashings and the whine of the huskies before they curl up for the night in the drifted snow. That said, it will be exciting to follow the expedition’s blog entries on Facebook as their diary will be combined with excerpts from Amundsen’s book The South Pole. (Facebook: Sorpolen 2011 and

Other groups, plan to retrace Amundsen and Scott’s journeys to the South Pole, no doubt only going one way, flying out. This includes a British military expedition organized by Henry Worsley. See Worsley plans two groups, one to manhaul from Cape Evans, Ross Island while the other will leave from the Bay of Whales after flying into their start points by private aircraft from Chile (via ALE’s Union Glacier base camp). 
(See comment below on Worsley’s 2008 trip
         to South Pole from Cape Royds) 

See also article (15-01-2011) in New York Times titled 
“Tourists mimic polar pioneers except with planes and blogs”

This comment comes from the Sorpolen2011 site “Whatever Amundsen might have thought, the southernmost point on the globe has become a popular destination for adventurers great and humble, traversing distances long and short. During this Centenary season, 210 people will reach the South Pole – one way or another. That is about 50-60 more than during a ‘normal’ season. Of those 210 people, 70-75 are Norwegian. These numbers do not include researchers affiliated with the American base at the South Pole. Nor do they include people who intend to climb Mount Vinson. That mountain is on the ‘Seven Summits’ list of the highest peaks on each continent; 190 people were flown in to the foot of Mount Vinson last year.
Most of these Antarctic expeditions fly in from Punta Arenas. Antarctic Logistics & Expeditions (ALE) is the only private airline that offers services in this area. This year they will fly in 6.5 tonnes of cargo to their own base at the South Pole to be able to handle all their clients. Around 14 December they will have two physicians stationed there full time. ALE handles three types of customers:
‘Soft clients’ or ‘Fly ups’ who are flown to the Pole, spend a couple hours, and are flown out.
“Last degree” clients, who traverse the last one or two degrees of latitude to the pole. (One degree of latitude corresponds to 110 km = 60 n.m. )
Long-distance expeditions.

ALE has registered nearly 60 Norwegians who will sail or ski to the South Pole from various starting points during the next few months. The shortest journey will traverse the last degree of latitude; the longest will originate from Hvalbukta (Bay of Whales) In terms of distance, Aleksander Gamme has the most ambitious plan: a round-trip flight between Hercules Inlet/Union Glacier and the South Pole covers over 1000 n.m.. All plan to meet the Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg at the South Pole on December 14... Jens himself skiing ‘ the last bit’.
The spirit of Roald Amundsen lingers over the icy waste, but the man himself is not chuckling behind his beard or anywhere else. He keeps his silence – and polar expeditions are definitely not what they used to be.”
Though details remain sketchy, Norwegians Asle Johansen, Agnar Berg 
and Gaute Grindhaug also plan to ski from the Bay of Whales to the
South Pole during the 2011 summer season. In 1988, 100 years after 
Nansen crossed Greenland, Alse made a crossing of Greenland 
wearing  period clothing and using old fashioned equipment. His repeat 
of the Amundsen route to the South Pole will be in a similar fashion 
- minus the dogs.
The last word goes to Roald Amundsen “I may say that this is the greatest factor...the way in which the expedition is equipped - the way in which every difficulty is foreseen, and precautions taken for meeting or avoiding it. Victory awaits him who has everything in order - luck, people call it. Defeat is certain for him who has neglected to take the necessary precautions in time; this is called bad luck.”

                        REACH THE POLE 
                      FROM ROSS ISLAND  

In recent years, there have only been three successful non-Norwegian, non-mechanized private expedition traverses to the South Pole from New Zealand’s Ross Sea coast.

In 1985, Robert Swan, Roger Mear and Gareth Wood manhauled sledges up the Beardmore from their winter base at Cape Evans. Though called “In the Footsteps of Scott” the British expedition didn’t lay any depots, planning to fly back from South Pole in a Cessna aircraft transported to Antarctica on their ship Southern Quest. Unfortunately, the ship was promptly crushed by pack ice and sank off Beaufort Island. The team members were forced to return from the South Pole by US aircraft. Swan’s base was occupied for a second winter before being taken over by Greenpeace during its World Park campaign. 

Backed by Antarctica New Zealand, the 1998/99 summer season saw Australians Eric Phillips and Jon Muir and New Zealander Peter Hillary attempt an ‘unsupported’ return journey from Scott Base to the South Pole via the Shackleton Glacier. Laying depots as they went, the expedition succeeded in reaching the Pole but not without air support to bolster dwindling supplies. After an 83 day southbound leg (Captain Scott’s journey took 78 days), the planned manhaul back to Ross Island was aborted, the trio flying home by US aircraft instead. At considerable effort and cost some of Icetrek’s depots were recovered the following season.

In 2008, during what was the centenary of Ernest Shackleton’s Nimrod 
expedition, Britons Will Gow, Henry Adams (a descendant of Nimrod
expedition member Jameson Adams) and Henry Worsley, (a descendant
of New Zealander Frank Worsley, Shackleton’s captain on his 
1914-17 Endurance expedition), successfully manhauled from Cape Royds 
to the South Pole. After an expedition that attracted little fuss or fanfare, 
at least in New Zealand, they flew out by private aircraft.


Vessels used by Roald Amundsen (Left to Right)  Maud , Gjoa and Fram , Tromso Polar museum, Norway  Photo: Colin Monteath

Model of Fram under sail, Tromso polar museum

Amundsen’s Norway flag embroidered with his expedition dates, Tromso, polar museum, Norway

Painting of Amundsen’s Gjoa in North West Passage,

Tromso polar museum, Norway

New Zealand mountaineer Eric Saxby on Nordic skis, Ross Ice Shelf.

Photo : Colin Monteath

British explorer Ernest Shackleton,

             studio portrait

The Beardmore Glacier cuts through Transantarctic Mountains from the Polar Plateau down to the Ross Ice Shelf.

The Beardmore flows downwards at a gradual angle though it is clearly an extensive ice system.  The Beardmore, Shackleton and Mill glaciers are more wind-blasted, bare ice ‘polar’ glaciers whereas the Axel Heiberg is more of an ‘alpine’ glacier ie steeper, shorter, with two major icefalls and receives more snowfall from storms that rise off the Ross Ice Shelf.  Photo: Howard Conway / Hedgehog House

Monika Kristensen waves good-bye to Norwegian residents of Christchurch as her ship Aurora leaves Lyttelton bound for the Ross Sea and the Bay of Whales               Photos: Colin Monteath / Hedgehog House

Nunataks, Queen Maud Land, East Antarctica.

Photos (LtoR) Maurice Conway, Peter Cleary and Max Wenden / Hedgehog House

Borge Ousland with his Nordic skis painted by his children  to remind him of home while skiing across Antarctica  Photo: Max Wenden / Hedgehog House

Cover of Roald Amundsen’s The South Pole Hedgehog House archive

Australian Icetrek skier Eric Phillips. Photo : Jon Muir / Hedgehog House

Robert Swan with Bill Burton, last surviving member of Captain Scott’s Terra Nova Expedition, departure of “In the Footsteps of Scott” expedition  from Lyttelton, New Zealand

           Photo: Colin Monteath / Hedgehog House

“In the Footsteps of Scott” expedition members aboard Southern Quest, depart Lyttelton,

Photo : Colin Monteath / Hedgehog House

Icetrek members , Eric Phillips, Jon Muir and Peter Hillary set off from New Zealand’s Scott Base across Ross Ice Shelf

                  Photo: Ty Milford / Hedgehog House

Colin Monteath is a Christchurch-based polar and mountain photographer who has had 30 summer seasons in Antarctica and four in the Arctic. As Field Operations Officer for the New Zealand Antarctic Research Programme from 1975-83 Colin was in charge of New Zealand’s huskies at Scott Base. As such, he took part in handover journeys with the doghandlers around Ross Island and into the Transantarctic Mountains. Colin has also crossed the Greenland icesheet with skis and three dog teams and completed ski traverses of Norway’s Arctic island of Svalbard and Alaska’s highest peak Denali.

Text © Colin Monteath, Images © Colin Monteath and Hedgehog House New Zealand archive

Heart of the Antarctic
Shackleton,Wild, Marshall and Adams discover Beardmore Glacier.
With the help of ponies they climb to The Polar Plateau, 
the first humans to reach the most inhospitable environment on Earth
Shackleton wrote to his wife Emily about turning back short
 of the Pole...  “I thought you’d rather have a live donkey than a dead lion.”

New Zealand field party polar tent and camp, Polar Plateau. Photo Peter Otway / Hedgehog House

Henry Worsley will take Captain Oates’ polar medal with him when makes his journey from Bay of Whales to the South Pole

Top left:  Vergad Ulvang -14 World ski championships and Olympic  medals, expeditioner, environmentalist Top Right:  Jan-Gunnar Winther director Norwegian Polar Institute, Climate scientist

Bottom left:  Harald dag Jolle Polar historian, skier, Bottom right:  Stein Aasheim professional adventurer, climbed Everest.

Nansen manhauling sleds across Greenland and his team with kayaks on west coast.

courtesy National Library, Oslo

Sledging with huskies down Axel Heiberg Glacier from Polar Plateau  to Ross Ice Shelf 1962 Photos courtesy Peter Otway


Norway is the only country to have territory in both the Arctic ( Svalbard) and Antarctica.

Dronning Maud Land is the Norwegian claim sector in Antarctica, annexed 14 January 1939. The area occupies one-sixth of the Antarctic continent and is almost seven times larger than Norway. It is named after Queen Maud of Norway (1869–1938). It was Norwegian whaling activity in the region that prompted Norwegian interest in charting and later claiming the area.

In 1989, when Norway claimed the sector between 20°W and 45°E, Stortinget (Norwegian parliament) did not delimit the northern and southern extent of the claim. ie the claim does not run all the way to the South Pole. The phrase used was: “...with the land lying inland of this shore and the seas lying there within, be laid under Norwegian sovereignty.” Dronning Maud Land borders on the British sector to the west and the Australian sector to the east.


Studio portrait of Amundsen  (centre) with fellow students

During the 2011 summer Borge Ousland plans to repeat Amundsen’s ski journey to the pole from the Bay of Whales - minus the dogs , with an ascent of Mt Nansen on the way - watch this space!