Part 1 out of 5
This etext was produced by Jeroen Hellingman
The South Pole
An Account of the Norwegian
Antarctic Expedition in the "Fram,"
1910 -- 1912
By Roald Amundsen
Translated from the Norwegian by
A. G. Chater
The Brave Little Band That Promised
In Funchal Roads
To Stand by Me in the Struggle for the
I Dedicate this Book.
August 15, 1912.
Contents of Vol. I
The First Account VII
Introduction, by Fridtjof Nansen XXVII
I. The History of the South Pole 1
II. Plan and Preparations 42
III. On the Way to the South 90
IV. From Madeira to the Barrier 126
V. On the Barrier 169
VI. Depot Journeys 206
VII. Preparing for Winter 259
VIII. A Day at Framheim 283
IX. The End of the Winter 346
List of Illustrations to Vol. I
To Face Page
Roald Amundsen Frontispiece
Approximate Bird's-eye View, Drawn from the First Telegraphic
Reproduced by permission of the Daily Chronicle
The Opening of Roald Amundsen's Manuscript 1
Helmer Hanssen, Ice Pilot, a Member of the Polar Party 50
The "Fram's" Pigsty 60
The Pig's Toilet 60
Hoisting the Flag 90
A Patient 90
Some Members of the Expedition 92
Sverre Hassel 101
Oscar Wisting 102
In the North-east Trades 130
In the Rigging 134
Taking an Observation 134
Rönne Felt Safer when the Dogs were Muzzled 136
Starboard Watch on the Bridge 136
Olav Bjaaland, a Member of the Polar Party 136
In the Absence of Lady Partners, Rönne Takes a Turn with the
An Albatross 150
In Warmer Regions 150
A Fresh Breeze in the West Wind Belt 152
The Propeller Lifted in the Westerlies 154
The "Fram's" Saloon Decorated for Christmas Eve 158
Rönne at a Sailor's Job 162
The "Fram" In Drift-ice 162
Drift-ice in Ross Sea 168
A Clever Method of Landing 170
The "Fram" under Sail 170
Cape Man's Head on the Barrier 174
The "Fram" 176
The Crew of the "Fram" in the Bay of Whales 178
The "Fram" in the Bay of Whales 178
The First Dog-camp 180
Reproduced by permission of the Illustrated London News
Digging the Foundations of Framheim 184
Reproduced by permission of the Illustrated London News
Building the Hut 186
Unloading the Six Sledge-drivers 186
Polar Transport 192
Reproduced by permission of the Illustrated London News
The Provision Store 192
Framheim, January, 1911 194
Reproduced by permission of the Illustrated London News
Suggen, Arne, and the Colonel 196
Mikkel, Ravn, and Mas-mas 196
Framheim, February, 1911 206
Prestrud in Winter Dress 208
Bjaaland in Winter Dress 208
The "Fram" Veteran, Lindström: the Only Man Who has Sailed round the
Continent of America 208
The Start of the First Depot Journey 208
A Page from the Sledge Diary, Giving Details of Depots I. and II.
Framheim, March, 1911 248
Killing Seals for the Depot 254
Reproduced by permission of the Illustrated London News
The Meat Tent 264
The Meteorological Screen 266
Inside a Dog-tent 266
A Winter Evening at Framheim 272
The Carpenters' Shop 272
Entrance to the Hut 272
Entrance to the Western Workshop 272
Prestrud in His Observatory 272
Wisting at the Sewing-machine 278
Packing Sledges in the "Crystal Palace" 278
Lindström with the Buckwheat Cakes 298
On His "Native Heath": A Dog on the Barrier Ice 304
Dogs Exercising 308
Helmer Hanssen on a Seal-hunt 308
Hanssen and Wisting Lashing the New Sledges 312
Passage in the Ice 312
Johansen Packing Provisions in the "Crystal Palace" 312
A Corner of the Kitchen 322
Stubberud Taking it Easy 322
Johansen Packing Biscuits in the "Crystal Palace" 322
Hassel and the Vapour-bath 330
Midwinter Day, June, 1911 362
Our Ski-binding in its Final Form 364
At Work on Personal Outfit 364
Trying on Patent Goggles 368
Hassel in the Oil-store 368
Deep in Thought 372
The Loaded Sledges in the Clothing Store 374
Sledges Ready for Use Being Hauled Out of the Store-room 374
At the Depot in Lat. 80° S. 384
Reproduced by permission of the Illustrated London News.
Some of the Land Party in Winter Costume 390
General Map of the South Polar Region At end of Volume
The First Account
On February 10, 1911, we started for the South to establish depots,
and continued our journey until April 11. We formed three depots and
stored in them 3 tons of provisions, including 22 hundredweight of
seal meat. As there were no landmarks, we had to indicate the position
of our depots by flags, which were posted at a distance of about four
miles to the east and west. The first barrier afforded the best going,
and was specially adapted for dog-sledging. Thus, on February 15 we
did sixty-two miles with sledges. Each sledge weighed 660 pounds,
and we had six dogs for each. The upper barrier ("barrier surface")
was smooth and even. There were a few crevasses here and there, but
we only found them dangerous at one or two points. The barrier went
in long, regular undulations. The weather was very favourable, with
calms or light winds. The lowest temperature at this station was -49°
F., which was taken on March 4.
When we returned to winter quarters on February 5 from a first trip,
we found that the Fram had already left us. With joy and pride we heard
from those who had stayed behind that our gallant captain had succeeded
in sailing her farther south than any former ship. So the good old
Fram has shown the flag of Norway both farthest north and farthest
south. The most southerly latitude reached by the Fram was 78° 41'.
Before the winter set in we had 60 tons of seal meat in our winter
quarters; this was enough for ourselves and our 110 dogs. We had built
eight kennels and a number of connecting tents and snow huts. When we
had provided for the dogs, we thought of ourselves. Our little hut
was almost entirely covered with snow. Not till the middle of April
did we decide to adopt artificial light in the hut. This we did with
the help of a Lux lamp of 200 candle-power, which gave an excellent
light and kept the indoor temperature at about 68° F. throughout the
winter. The ventilation was very satisfactory, and we got sufficient
fresh air. The hut was directly connected with the house in which we
had our workshop, larder, storeroom, and cellar, besides a single
bathroom and observatory. Thus we had everything within doors and
easily got at, in case the weather should be so cold and stormy that
we could not venture out.
The sun left us on April 22, and we did not see it again for four
months. We spent the winter in altering our whole equipment, which our
depot journeys had shown to be too heavy and clumsy for the smooth
barrier surface. At the same time we carried out all the scientific
work for which there was opportunity. We made a number of surprising
meteorological observations. There was very little snow, in spite
of there being open water in the neighbourhood. We had expected to
observe higher temperatures in the course of the winter, but the
thermometer remained very low. During five months temperatures were
observed varying between -58° and -74° F. We had the lowest (-74°
F.) on August 13; the weather was calm. On August 1 we had -72°
F. with a wind of thirteen miles an hour. The mean temperature for
the year was -15° F. We expected blizzard after blizzard, but had
only two moderate storms. We made many excellent observations of the
aurora australis in all parts of the heavens. Our bill of health was
the best possible throughout the whole winter. When the sun returned
on August 24 it shone upon men who were healthy in mind and body,
and ready to begin the task that lay before them.
We had brought the sledges the day before to the starting-point of the
southern journey. At the beginning of September the temperature rose,
and it was decided to commence the journey. On September 8 a party of
eight men set out, with seven sledges and ninety dogs, provisioned for
ninety days. The surface was excellent, and the temperature not so bad
as it might have been. But on the following day we saw that we had
started too early. The temperature then fell, and remained for some
days between -58° and -75° F. Personally we did not suffer at all, as
we had good fur clothing, but with the dogs it was another matter. They
grew lanker and lanker every day, and we soon saw that they would not
be able to stand it in the long run. At our depot in lat. 80° we agreed
to turn back and await the arrival of spring. After having stored our
provisions, we returned to the hut. Excepting the loss of a few dogs
and one or two frostbitten heels, all was well. It was not till the
middle of October that the spring began in earnest. Seals and birds
were sighted. The temperature remained steady, between -5° and -22° F.
Meanwhile we had abandoned the original plan, by which all were to
go to the south. Five men were to do this, while three others made
a trip to the east, to visit King Edward VII. Land. This trip did
not form part of our programme, but as the English did not reach
this land last summer, as had been their intention, we agreed that
it would be best to undertake this journey in addition.
On October 20 the southern party left. It consisted of five men
with four sledges and fifty-two dogs, and had provisions for four
months. Everything was in excellent order, and we had made up our minds
to take it easy during the first part of the journey, so that we and
the dogs might not be too fatigued, and we therefore decided to make
a little halt on the 22nd at the depot that lay in lat. 80°. However,
we missed the mark owing to thick fog, but after two or three miles'
march we found the place again.
When we had rested here and given the dogs as much seal meat as
they were able to eat, we started again on the 26th. The temperature
remained steady, between -5° and -22° F.
At first we had made up our minds not to drive more than twelve to
eighteen miles a day; but this proved to be too little, thanks to
our strong and willing animals. At lat. 80° we began to erect snow
beacons, about the height of a man, to show us the way home.
On the 31st we reached the depot in lat. 81°. We halted for a day
and fed the dogs on pemmican. On November 5 we reached the depot
in 82°, where for the last time the dogs got as much to eat as they
On the 8th we started southward again, and now made a daily march of
about thirty miles. In order to relieve the heavily laden sledges, we
formed a depot at every parallel we reached. The journey from lat. 82°
to 83° was a pure pleasure trip, on account of the surface and the
temperature, which were as favourable as one could wish. Everything
went swimmingly until the 9th, when we sighted South Victoria Land
and the continuation of the mountain chain, which Shackleton gives
on his map, running southeast from Beardmore Glacier. On the same
day we reached lat. 83°, and established here Depot No. 4.
On the 11th we made the interesting discovery that the Ross Barrier
ended in an elevation on the south-east, formed between a chain of
mountains running south-eastward from South Victoria Land and another
chain on the opposite side, which runs south-westward in continuation
of King Edward VII. Land.
On the 13th we reached lat. 84°, where we established a depot. On the
16th we got to 85°, where again we formed a depot. From our winter
quarters at Framheim we had marched due south the whole time.
On November 17, in lat. 85°, we came to a spot where the land barrier
intersected our route, though for the time being this did not cause
us any difficulty. The barrier here rises in the form of a wave to
a height of about 300 feet, and its limit is shown by a few large
fissures. Here we established our main depot. We took supplies for
sixty days on the sledges and left behind enough provisions for
The land under which we now lay, and which we were to attack, looked
perfectly impossible, with peaks along the barrier which rose to
heights of from 2,000 to 10,000 feet. Farther south we saw more peaks,
of 15,000 feet or higher.
Next day we began to climb. The first part of the work was easy,
as the ground rose gradually with smooth snow-slopes below the
mountain-side. Our dogs working well, it did not take us long to get
over these slopes.
At the next point we met with some small, very steep glaciers,
and here we had to harness twenty dogs to each sledge and take the
four sledges in two journeys. Some places were so steep that it was
difficult to use our ski. Several times we were compelled by deep
crevasses to turn back.
On the first day we climbed 2,000 feet. The next day we crossed
small glaciers, and camped at a height of 4,635 feet. On the third
day we were obliged to descend the great Axel Heiberg Glacier, which
separates the mountains of the coast from those farther south.
On the following day the longest part of our climbing began. Many
detours had to be made to avoid broad fissures and open crevasses. Most
of them were filled up, as in all probability the glacier had long
ago ceased to move; but we had to be very careful, nevertheless,
as we could never know the depth of snow that covered them. Our camp
that night was in very picturesque surroundings, at a height of about
The glacier was here imprisoned between two mountains of 15,000 feet,
which we named after Fridtjof Nansen and Don Pedro Christophersen.
At the bottom of the glacier we saw Ole Engelstad's great snow-cone
rising in the air to 19,000 feet. The glacier was much broken up in
this narrow defile; enormous crevasses seemed as if they would stop
our going farther, but fortunately it was not so bad as it looked.
Our dogs, which during the last few days had covered a distance of
nearly 440 miles, put in a very good piece of work that day, as they
did twenty-two miles on ground rising to 5,770 feet. It was an almost
incredible record. It only took us four days from the barrier to reach
the immense inland plateau. We camped at a height of 7,600 feet. Here
we had to kill twenty-four of our brave dogs, keeping eighteen --
six for each of our three sledges. We halted here for four days on
account of bad weather. On November 25 we were tired of waiting, and
started again. On the 26th we were overtaken by a raging blizzard. In
the thick, driving snow we could see absolutely nothing; but we felt
that, contrary to what we had expected -- namely, a further ascent
-- we were going rapidly downhill. The hypsometer that day showed a
descent of 600 feet. We continued our march next day in a strong wind
and thick, driving snow. Our faces were badly frozen. There was no
danger, but we simply could see nothing. Next day, according to our
reckoning, we reached lat. 86°. The hypsometer showed a fall of 800
feet. The following day passed in the same way. The weather cleared up
about noon, and there appeared to our astonished eyes a mighty mountain
range to the east of us, and not far away. But the vision only lasted
a moment, and then disappeared again in the driving snow. On the 29th
the weather became calmer and the sun shone -- a pleasant surprise. Our
course lay over a great glacier, which ran in a southerly direction. On
its eastern side was a chain of mountains running to the southeast. We
had no view of its western part, as this was lost in a thick fog. At
the foot of the Devil's Glacier we established a depot in lat. 86°
21', calculated for six days. The hypsometer showed 8,000 feet above
sea level. On November 30 we began to ascend the glacier. The lower
part was much broken up and dangerous, and the thin bridges of snow
over the crevasses often broke under us. From our camp that evening
we had a splendid view of the mountains to the east. Mount Helmer
Hansen was the most remarkable of them all; it was 12,000 feet high,
and covered by a glacier so rugged that in all probability it would
have been impossible to find foothold on it. Here were also Mounts
Oskar Wisting, Sverre Hassel, and Olav Bjaaland, grandly lighted up
by the rays of the sun. In the distance, and only visible from time
to time through the driving mists, we saw Mount Thorvald Nilsen,
with peaks rising to 15,000 feet. We could only see those parts of
them that lay nearest to us. It took us three days to get over the
Devil's Glacier, as the weather was unusually misty.
On December 1 we left the glacier in high spirits. It was cut up by
innumerable crevasses and holes. We were now at a height of 9,370
feet. In the mist and driving snow it looked as if we had a frozen
lake before us; but it proved to be a sloping plateau of ice, full
of small blocks of ice. Our walk across this frozen lake was not
pleasant. The ground under our feet was evidently hollow, and it
sounded as if we were walking on empty barrels. First a man fell
through, then a couple of dogs; but they got up again all right. We
could not, of course, use our ski on this smooth-polished ice, but we
got on fairly well with the sledges. We called this place the Devil's
Ballroom. This part of our march was the most unpleasant of the whole
trip. On December 2 we reached our greatest elevation. According to
the hypsometer and our aneroid barometer we were at a height of 11,075
feet -- this was in lat. 87° 51'. On December 8 the bad weather came
to an end, the sun shone on us once more, and we were able to take our
observations again. It proved that the observations and our reckoning
of the distance covered gave exactly the same result -- namely, 88°
16' S. lat. Before us lay an absolutely flat plateau, only broken
by small crevices. In the afternoon we passed 88° 23', Shackleton's
farthest south. We pitched our camp in 88° 25', and established our
last depot -- No. 10. From 88° 25' the plateau began to descend evenly
and very slowly. We reached 88° 29' on December 9. On December 10, 88°
56'; December 11, 89° 15'; December 12, 89° 30'; December 13, 89° 45'.
Up to this moment the observations and our reckoning had shown a
surprising agreement. We reckoned that we should be at the Pole on
December 14. On the afternoon of that day we had brilliant weather --
a light wind from the south-east with a temperature of -10° F. The
sledges were going very well. The day passed without any occurrence
worth mentioning, and at three o'clock in the afternoon we halted,
as according to our reckoning we had reached our goal.
We all assembled about the Norwegian flag -- a handsome silken flag --
which we took and planted all together, and gave the immense plateau
on which the Pole is situated the name of "King Haakon VII.'s Plateau."
It was a vast plain of the same character in every direction, mile
after mile. During the afternoon we traversed the neighbourhood of
the camp, and on the following day, as the weather was fine, we were
occupied from six in the morning till seven in the evening in taking
observations, which gave us 89° 55' as the result. In order to take
observations as near the Pole as possible, we went on, as near true
south as we could, for the remaining 9 kilometres. On December 16 we
pitched our camp in brilliant sunshine, with the best conditions for
taking observations. Four of us took observations every hour of the
day -- twenty-four in all. The results of these will be submitted to
the examination of experts.
We have thus taken observations as near to the Pole as was humanly
possible with the instruments at our disposal. We had a sextant and
artificial horizon calculated for a radius of 8 kilometres.
On December 17 we were ready to go. We raised on the spot a little
circular tent, and planted above it the Norwegian flag and the Fram's
pennant. The Norwegian camp at the South Pole was given the name of
"Polheim." The distance from our winter quarters to the Pole was about
870 English miles, so that we had covered on an average 15 1/2 miles
We began the return journey on December 17. The weather was unusually
favourable, and this made our return considerably easier than the
march to the Pole. We arrived at "Framheim," our winter quarters,
in January, 1912, with two sledges and eleven dogs, all well. On the
homeward journey we covered an average of 22 1/2 miles a day. The
lowest temperature we observed on this trip was -24° F., and the
highest +23° F.
The principal result -- besides the attainment of the Pole -- is
the determination of the extent and character of the Ross Barrier. Next
to this, the discovery of a connection between South Victoria Land
and, probably, King Edward VII. Land through their continuation in
huge mountain-ranges, which run to the south-east and were seen as far
south as lat. 88° 8', but which in all probability are continued right
across the Antarctic Continent. We gave the name of "Queen Maud's
Mountains" to the whole range of these newly discovered mountains,
about 530 miles in length.
The expedition to King Edward VII. Land, under Lieutenant Prestrud,
has achieved excellent results. Scott's discovery was confirmed, and
the examination of the Bay of Whales and the Ice Barrier, which the
party carried out, is of great interest. Good geological collections
have been obtained from King Edward VII. Land and South Victoria Land.
The Fram arrived at the Bay of Whales on January 9, having been
delayed in the "Roaring Forties " by easterly winds.
On January 16 the Japanese expedition arrived at the Bay of Whales,
and landed on the Barrier near our winter quarters.
We left the Bay of Whales on January 30. We had a long voyage on
account of contrary wind.
We are all in the best of health.
March 8, 1912.
When the explorer comes home victorious, everyone goes out to cheer
him. We are all proud of his achievement -- proud on behalf of the
nation and of humanity. We think it is a new feather in our cap,
and one we have come by cheaply.
How many of those who join in the cheering were there when the
expedition was fitting out, when it was short of bare necessities,
when support and assistance were most urgently wanted? Was there
then any race to be first? At such a time the leader has usually
found himself almost alone; too often he has had to confess that his
greatest difficulties were those he had to overcome at home before
he could set sail. So it was with Columbus, and so it has been with
many since his time.
So it was, too, with Roald Amundsen -- not only the first time, when he
sailed in the Gjöa with the double object of discovering the Magnetic
North Pole and of making the North-West Passage, but this time again,
when in 1910 he left the fjord on his great expedition in the Fram,
to drift right across the North Polar Sea. What anxieties that man has
gone through, which might have been spared him if there had been more
appreciation on the part of those who had it in their power to make
things easier! And Amundsen had then shown what stuff he was made of:
both the great objects of the Gjöa's expedition were achieved. He
has always reached the goal he has aimed at, this man who sailed his
little yacht over the whole Arctic Ocean, round the north of America,
on the course that had been sought in vain for four hundred years. If
he staked his life and abilities, would it not have been natural if
we had been proud of having such a man to support?
But was it so?
For a long time he struggled to complete his equipment. Money was still
lacking, and little interest was shown in him and his work, outside the
few who have always helped so far as was in their power. He himself
gave everything he possessed in the world. But this time, as last,
he nevertheless had to put to sea loaded with anxieties and debts,
and, as before, he sailed out quietly on a summer night.
Autumn was drawing on. One day there came a letter from him. In
order to raise the money he could not get at home for his North Polar
expedition he was going to the South Pole first. People stood still
-- did not know what to say. This was an unheard-of thing, to make
for the North Pole by way of the South Pole! To make such an immense
and entirely new addition to his plans without asking leave! Some
thought it grand; more thought it doubtful; but there were many who
cried out that it was inadmissible, disloyal -- nay, there were some
who wanted to have him stopped. But nothing of this reached him. He
had steered his course as he himself had set it, without looking back.
Then by degrees it was forgotten, and everyone went on with his own
affairs. The mists were upon us day after day, week after week --
the mists that are kind to little men and swallow up all that is
great and towers above them.
Suddenly a bright spring day cuts through the bank of fog. There
is a new message. People stop again and look up. High above them
shines a deed, a man. A wave of joy runs through the souls of men;
their eyes are bright as the flags that wave about them.
Why? On account of the great geographical discoveries, the
important scientific results? Oh no; that will come later, for the
few specialists. This is something all can understand. A victory of
human mind and human strength over the dominion and powers of Nature;
a deed that lifts us above the grey monotony of daily life; a view
over shining plains, with lofty mountains against the cold blue sky,
and lands covered by ice-sheets of inconceivable extent; a vision
of long-vanished glacial times; the triumph of the living over the
stiffened realm of death. There is a ring of steeled, purposeful
human will -- through icy frosts, snowstorms, and death.
For the victory is not due to the great inventions of the present
day and the many new appliances of every kind. The means used are
of immense antiquity, the same as were known to the nomad thousands
of years ago, when he pushed forward across the snow-covered plains
of Siberia and Northern Europe. But everything, great and small, was
thoroughly thought out, and the plan was splendidly executed. It is
the man that matters, here as everywhere.
Like everything great, it all looks so plain and simple. Of course,
that is just as it had to be, we think.
Apart from the discoveries and experiences of earlier explorers --
which, of course, were a necessary condition of success -- both
the plan and its execution are the ripe fruit of Norwegian life
and experience in ancient and modern times. The Norwegians' daily
winter life in snow and frost, our peasants' constant use of ski and
ski-sledge in forest and mountain, our sailors' yearly whaling and
sealing life in the Polar Sea, our explorers' journeys in the Arctic
regions -- it was all this, with the dog as a draught animal borrowed
from the primitive races, that formed the foundation of the plan and
rendered its execution possible -- when the man appeared.
Therefore, when the man is there, it carries him through all
difficulties as if they did not exist; every one of them has been
foreseen and encountered in advance. Let no one come and prate
about luck and chance. Amundsen's luck is that of the strong man who
How like him and the whole expedition is his telegram home -- as
simple and straightforward as if it concerned a holiday tour in the
mountains. It speaks of what is achieved, not of their hardships. Every
word a manly one. That is the mark of the right man, quiet and strong.
It is still too early to measure the extent of the new discoveries,
but the cablegram has already dispersed the mists so far that the
outlines are beginning to shape themselves. That fairyland of ice, so
different from all other lands, is gradually rising out of the clouds.
In this wonderful world of ice Amundsen has found his own way. From
first to last he and his companions have traversed entirely unknown
regions on their ski, and there are not many expeditions in history
that have brought under the foot of man so long a range of country
hitherto unseen by human eye. People thought it a matter of course that
he would make for Beardmore Glacier, which Shackleton had discovered,
and by that route come out on to the high snow plateau near the Pole,
since there he would be sure of getting forward. We who knew Amundsen
thought it would be more like him to avoid a place for the very reason
that it had been trodden by others. Happily we were right. Not at
any point does his route touch that of the Englishmen -- except by
the Pole itself.
This is a great gain to research. When in a year's time we have Captain
Scott back safe and sound with all his discoveries and observations on
the other route, Amundsen's results will greatly increase in value,
since the conditions will then be illuminated from two sides. The
simultaneous advance towards the Pole from two separate points was
precisely the most fortunate thing that could happen for science. The
region investigated becomes so much greater, the discoveries so many
more, and the importance of the observations is more than doubled,
often multiplied many times. Take, for instance, the meteorological
conditions: a single series of observations from one spot no doubt has
its value, but if we get a simultaneous series from another spot in
the same region, the value of both becomes very much greater, because
we then have an opportunity of understanding the movements of the
atmosphere. And so with other investigations. Scott's expedition will
certainly bring back rich and important results in many departments,
but the value of his observations will also be enhanced when placed
side by side with Amundsen's.
An important addition to Amundsen's expedition to the Pole is the
sledge journey of Lieutenant Prestrud and his two companions eastward
to the unknown King Edward VII. Land, which Scott discovered in
1902. It looks rather as if this land was connected with the masses
of land and immense mountain-chains that Amundsen found near the
Pole. We see new problems looming up.
But it was not only these journeys over ice-sheets and mountain-ranges
that were carried out in masterly fashion. Our gratitude is also due
to Captain Nilsen and his men. They brought the Fram backwards and
forwards, twice each way, through those ice-filled southern waters
that many experts even held to be so dangerous that the Fram would
not be able to come through them, and on both trips this was done
with the speed and punctuality of a ship on her regular route. The
Fram's builder, the excellent Colin Archer, has reason to be proud
of the way in which his "child" has performed her latest task --
this vessel that has been farthest north and farthest south on our
globe. But Captain Nilsen and the crew of the Fram have done more than
this; they have carried out a work of research which in scientific
value may be compared with what their comrades have accomplished
in the unknown world of ice, although most people will not be able
to recognize this. While Amundsen and his companions were passing
the winter in the South, Captain Nilsen, in the Fram, investigated
the ocean between South America and Africa. At no fewer than sixty
stations they took a number of temperatures, samples of water, and
specimens of the plankton in this little-known region, to a depth of
2,000 fathoms and more. They thus made the first two sections that
have ever been taken of the South Atlantic, and added new regions of
the unknown ocean depths to human knowledge. The Fram's sections are
the longest and most complete that are known in any part of the ocean.
Would it be unreasonable if those who have endured and achieved so much
had now come home to rest? But Amundsen points onward. So much for
that; now for the real object. Next year his course will be through
Behring Strait into the ice and frost and darkness of the North, to
drift right across the North Polar Sea -- five years, at least. It
seems almost superhuman; but he is the man for that, too. Fram is
his ship, "forward" is his motto, and he will come through. He
will carry out his main expedition, the one that is now before him,
as surely and steadily as that he has just come from.
But while we are waiting, let us rejoice over what has already been
achieved. Let us follow the narrow sledge-tracks that the little black
dots of dogs and men have drawn across the endless white surface down
there in the South -- like a railroad of exploration into the heart
of the unknown. The wind in its everlasting flight sweeps over these
tracks in the desert of snow. Soon all will be blotted out.
But the rails of science are laid; our knowledge is richer than before.
And the light of the achievement shines for all time.
May 3, 1912.
The Opening of Roald Amundsen's Manuscript.
To face page I, Vol. I.
The History of the South Pole
"Life is a ball In the hands of chance."
Brisbane, Queensland, April 13, 1912.
Here I am, sitting in the shade of palms, surrounded by the most
wonderful vegetation, enjoying the most magnificent fruits, and writing
-- the history of the South Pole. What an infinite distance seems to
separate that region from these surroundings! And yet it is only four
months since my gallant comrades and I reached the coveted spot.
I write the history of the South Pole! If anyone had hinted a word of
anything of the sort four or five years ago, I should have looked upon
him as incurably mad. And yet the madman would have been right. One
circumstance has followed on the heels of another, and everything
has turned out so entirely different from what I had imagined.
On December 14, 1911, five men stood at the southern end of our earth's
axis, planted the Norwegian flag there, and named the region after
the man for whom they would all gladly have offered their lives --
King Haakon VII. Thus the veil was torn aside for all time, and one
of the greatest of our earth's secrets had ceased to exist.
Since I was one of the five who, on that December afternoon, took part
in this unveiling, it has fallen to my lot to write -- the history
of the South Pole.
Antarctic exploration is very ancient. Even before our conception
of the earth's form had taken definite shape, voyages to the South
began. It is true that not many of the explorers of those distant times
reached what we now understand by the Antarctic regions, but still
the intention and the possibility were there, and justify the name of
Antarctic exploration. The motive force of these undertakings was --
as has so often been the case -- the hope of gain. Rulers greedy of
power saw in their mind's eye an increase of their possessions. Men
thirsting for gold dreamed of an unsuspected wealth of the alluring
metal. Enthusiastic missionaries rejoiced at the thought of a multitude
of lost sheep. The scientifically trained world waited modestly in
the background. But they have all had their share: politics, trade,
religion, and science.
The history of Antarctic discovery may be divided at the outset into
two categories. In the first of these I would include the numerous
voyagers who, without any definite idea of the form or conditions of
the southern hemisphere, set their course toward the South, to make
what landfall they could. These need only be mentioned briefly before
passing to the second group, that of Antarctic travellers in the proper
sense of the term, who, with a knowledge of the form of the earth,
set out across the ocean, aiming to strike the Antarctic monster --
in the heart, if fortune favoured them.
We must always remember with gratitude and admiration the first sailors
who steered their vessels through storms and mists, and increased our
knowledge of the lands of ice in the South. People of the present day,
who are so well supplied with information about the most distant parts
of the earth, and have all our modern means of communication at their
command, find it difficult to understand the intrepid courage that
is implied by the voyages of these men.
They shaped their course toward the dark unknown, constantly exposed
to being engulfed and destroyed by the vague, mysterious dangers that
lay in wait for them somewhere in that dim vastness.
The beginnings were small, but by degrees much was won. One stretch
of country after another was discovered and subjected to the power of
man. Knowledge of the appearance of our globe became ever greater and
took more definite shape. Our gratitude to these first discoverers
should be profound.
And yet even to-day we hear people ask in surprise: What is the use
of these voyages of exploration? What good do they do us? Little
brains, I always answer to myself, have only room for thoughts of
bread and butter.
The first name on the roll of discovery is that of Prince Henry of
Portugal, surnamed the Navigator, who is ever to be remembered as
the earliest promoter of geographical research. To his efforts was
due the first crossing of the Equator, about 1470.
With Bartholomew Diaz another great step in advance was made. Sailing
from Lisbon in 1487, he reached Algoa Bay, and without doubt passed
the fortieth parallel on his southward voyage.
Vasco da Gama's voyage of 1497 is too well known to need
description. After him came men like Cabral and Vespucci, who
increased our knowledge, and de Gonneville, who added to the romance
We then meet with the greatest of the older explorers, Ferdinand
Magellan, a Portuguese by birth, though sailing in the service of
Spain. Setting out in 1519, he discovered the connection between the
Atlantic and Pacific Oceans in the strait that bears his name. No one
before him had penetrated so far South -- to about lat. 52° S. One
of his ships, the Victoria, accomplished the first circumnavigation
of the world, and thus established in the popular mind the fact that
the earth was really round. From that time the idea of the Antarctic
regions assumed definite shape. There must be something in the South:
whether land or water the future was to determine.
In 1578 we come to the renowned English seaman, Sir Francis
Drake. Though he was accounted a buccaneer, we owe him honour for the
geographical discoveries he made. He rounded Cape Horn and proved
that Tierra del Fuego was a great group of islands and not part of
an Antarctic continent, as many had thought.
The Dutchman, Dirk Gerritsz, who took part in a plundering expedition
to India in 1599 by way of the Straits of Magellan, is said to have
been blown out of his course after passing the straits, and to have
found himself in lat. 64° S. under high land covered with snow. This
has been assumed to be the South Shetland Islands, but the account
of the voyage is open to doubt.
In the seventeenth century we have the discoveries of Tasman, and
towards its close English adventurers reported having reached high
latitudes in the South Atlantic.
The English Astronomer Royal, Halley, undertook a scientific voyage to
the South in 1699 for the purpose of making magnetic observations, and
met with ice in 52° S., from which latitude he returned to the north.
The Frenchman, Bouvet (1738), was the first to follow the southern
ice-pack for any considerable distance, and to bring reports of the
immense, flat-topped Antarctic icebergs.
In 1756 the Spanish trading-ship Leon came home and reported high,
snow-covered land in lat. 55° S. to the east of Cape Horn. The
probability is that this was what we now know by the name of
South Georgia. The Frenchman, Marion-Dufresne, discovered, in
1772, the Marion and Crozet Islands. In the same year Joseph de
Kerguélen-Trémarec -- another Frenchman -- reached Kerguelen Land.
This concludes the series of expeditions that I have thought it proper
to class in the first group. "Antarctica," the sixth continent itself,
still lay unseen and untrodden. But human courage and intelligence
were now actively stirred to lift the veil and reveal the many secrets
that were concealed within the Antarctic Circle.
Captain James Cook -- one of the boldest and most capable seamen
the world has known -- opens the series of Antarctic expeditions
properly so called. The British Admiralty sent him out with orders
to discover the great southern continent, or prove that it did not
exist. The expedition, consisting of two ships, the Resolution and
the Adventure, left Plymouth on July 13, 1772. After a short stay at
Madeira it reached Cape Town on October 30. Here Cook received news of
the discovery of Kerguelen and of the Marion and Crozet Islands. In
the course of his voyage to the south Cook passed 300 miles to the
south of the land reported by Bouvet, and thereby established the fact
that the land in question -- if it existed -- was not continuous with
the great southern continent.
On January 17, 1773, the Antarctic Circle was crossed for the first
time -- a memorable day in the annals of Antarctic exploration. Shortly
afterwards a solid pack was encountered, and Cook was forced to return
to the north. A course was laid for the newly discovered islands --
Kerguelen, Marion, and the Crozets -- and it was proved that they
had nothing to do with the great southern land. In the course of his
further voyages in Antarctic waters Cook completed the most southerly
circumnavigation of the globe, and showed that there was no connection
between any of the lands or islands that had been discovered and
the great mysterious "Antarctica." His highest latitude (January 30,
1774) was 71° 10' S.
Cook's voyages had important commercial results, as his reports of
the enormous number of seals round South Georgia brought many sealers,
both English and American, to those waters, and these sealers, in turn,
increased the field of geographical discovery.
In 1819 the discovery of the South Shetlands by the Englishman,
Captain William Smith, is to be recorded. And this discovery led to
that of the Palmer Archipelago to the south of them.
The next scientific expedition to the Antarctic regions was that
despatched by the Emperor Alexander I. of Russia, under the command
of Captain Thaddeus von Bellingshausen. It was composed of two ships,
and sailed from Cronstadt on July 15, 1819. To this expedition belongs
the honour of having discovered the first land to the south of the
Antarctic Circle -- Peter I. Island and Alexander I. Land.
The next star in the Antarctic firmament is the British seaman, James
Weddell. He made two voyages in a sealer of 160 tons, the Jane of
Leith, in 1819 and 1822, being accompanied on the second occasion by
the cutter Beaufoy. In February, 1823, Weddell had the satisfaction
of beating Cook's record by reaching a latitude of 74° 15' S. in the
sea now known as Weddell Sea, which in that year was clear of ice.
The English firm of shipowners, Enderby Brothers, plays a not
unimportant part in Antarctic exploration. The Enderbys had carried on
sealing in southern waters since 1785. They were greatly interested,
not only in the commercial, but also in the scientific results of
these voyages, and chose their captains accordingly. In 1830 the
firm sent out John Biscoe on a sealing voyage in the Antarctic Ocean
with the brig Tula and the cutter Lively. The result of this voyage
was the sighting of Enderby Land in lat. 66° 25' S., long. 49° 18'
E. In the following year Adelaide, Biscoe, and Pitt Islands, on the
west coast of Graham Land were charted, and Graham Land itself was
seen for the first time.
Kemp, another of Enderby's skippers, reported land in lat. 66° S.,
and about long. 60° E.
In 1839 yet another skipper of the same firm, John Balleny, in the
schooner Eliza Scott, discovered the Balleny Islands.
We then come to the celebrated French sailor, Admiral Jules
Sébastien Dumont d'Urville. He left Toulon in September, 1837, with
a scientifically equipped expedition, in the ships Astrolabe and
Zélée. The intention was to follow in Weddell's track, and endeavour
to carry the French flag still nearer to the Pole. Early in 1838 Louis
Philippe Land and Joinville Island were discovered and named. Two
years later we again find d'Urville's vessels in Antarctic waters,
with the object of investigating the magnetic conditions in the
vicinity of the South Magnetic Pole. Land was discovered in lat. 66°
30' S. and long. 138° 21' E. With the exception of a few bare islets,
the whole of this land was completely covered with snow. It was given
the name of Adélie Land, and a part of the ice-barrier lying to the
west of it was called C^ote Clarie, on the supposition that it must
envelop a line of coast.
The American naval officer, Lieutenant Charles Wilkes, sailed in
August, 1838, with a fleet of six vessels. The expedition was sent out
by Congress, and carried twelve scientific observers. In February,
1839, the whole of this imposing Antarctic fleet was collected in
Orange Harbour in the south of Tierra del Fuego, where the work
was divided among the various vessels. As to the results of this
expedition it is difficult to express an opinion. Certain it is
that Wilkes Land has subsequently been sailed over in many places
by several expeditions. Of what may have been the cause of this
inaccurate cartography it is impossible to form any opinion. It
appears, however, from the account of the whole voyage, that the
undertaking was seriously conducted.
Then the bright star appears -- the man whose name will ever be
remembered as one of the most intrepid polar explorers and one of
the most capable seamen the world has produced -- Admiral Sir James
The results of his expedition are well known. Ross himself commanded
the Erebus and Commander Francis Crozier the Terror. The former
vessel, of 370 tons, had been originally built for throwing bombs;
her construction was therefore extraordinarily solid. The Terror,
340 tons, had been previously employed in Arctic waters, and on this
account had been already strengthened. In provisioning the ships,
every possible precaution was taken against scurvy, with the dangers
of which Ross was familiar from his experience in Arctic waters.
The vessels sailed from England in September, 1839, calling at
many of the Atlantic Islands, and arrived in Christmas Harbour,
Kerguelen Land, in the following May. Here they stayed two months,
making magnetic observations, and then proceeded to Hobart.
Sir John Franklin, the eminent polar explorer, was at that time
Governor of Tasmania, and Ross could not have wished for a better
one. Interested as Franklin naturally was in the expedition, he
afforded it all the help he possibly could. During his stay in Tasmania
Ross received information of what had been accomplished by Wilkes and
Dumont d'Urville in the very region which the Admiralty had sent him
to explore. The effect of this news was that Ross changed his plans,
and decided to proceed along the 170th meridian E., and if possible
to reach the Magnetic Pole from the eastward.
Here was another fortuitous circumstance in the long chain of
events. If Ross had not received this intelligence, it is quite
possible that the epoch-making geographical discoveries associated
with his name would have been delayed for many years.
On November 12, 1840, Sir John Franklin went on board the Erebus
to accompany his friend Ross out of port. Strange are the ways of
life! There stood Franklin on the deck of the ship which a few years
later was to be his deathbed. Little did he suspect, as he sailed
out of Hobart through Storm Bay -- the bay that is now wreathed by
the flourishing orchards of Tasmania -- that he would meet his death
in a high northern latitude on board the same vessel, in storms and
frost. But so it was.
After calling at the Auckland Islands and at Campbell Island, Ross
again steered for the South, and the Antarctic Circle was crossed on
New Year's Day, 1841. The ships were now faced by the ice-pack, but
to Ross this was not the dangerous enemy it had appeared to earlier
explorers with their more weakly constructed vessels. Ross plunged
boldly into the pack with his fortified ships, and, taking advantage
of the narrow leads, he came out four days later, after many severe
buffets, into the open sea to the South.
Ross had reached the sea now named after him, and the boldest voyage
known in Antarctic exploration was accomplished.
Few people of the present day are capable of rightly appreciating this
heroic deed; this brilliant proof of human courage and energy. With
two ponderous craft -- regular "tubs" according to our ideas -- these
men sailed right into the heart of the pack, which all previous polar
explorers had regarded as certain death. It is not merely difficult
to grasp this; it is simply impossible -- to us, who with a motion
of the hand can set the screw going, and wriggle out of the first
difficulty we encounter. These men were heroes -- heroes in the
highest sense of the word.
It was in lat. 69° 15' S. and long. 176° 15' E. that Ross found the
open sea. On the following day the horizon was perfectly clear of
ice. What joy that man must have felt when he saw that he had a clear
way to the South!
The course was set for the Magnetic Pole, and the hope of soon reaching
it burned in the hearts of all. Then -- just as they had accustomed
themselves to the idea of open sea, perhaps to the Magnetic Pole
itself -- the crow's-nest reported "High land right ahead." This was
the mountainous coast of South Victoria Land.
What a fairyland this must have seemed to the first voyagers who
approached it! Mighty mountain-ranges with summits from 7,000 to
10,000 feet high, some covered with snow and some quite bare --
lofty and rugged, precipitous and wild.
It became apparent that the Magnetic Pole was some 500 miles distant
-- far inland, behind the snow-covered ridges. On the morning of
January 12 they came close under a little island, and Ross with a
few companions rowed ashore and took possession of the country. They
could not reach the mainland itself on account of the thick belt of
ice that lay along the coast.
The expedition continued to work its way southward, making fresh
discoveries. On January 28 the two lofty summits, Mount Erebus and
Mount Terror, were sighted for the first time. The former was seen to
be an active volcano, from which smoke and flames shot up into the
sky. It must have been a wonderfully fine sight, this flaming fire
in the midst of the white, frozen landscape. Captain Scott has since
given the island, on which the mountains lie, the name of Ross Island,
after the intrepid navigator.
Naturally there were great expectations on board. If they had
penetrated so far south, there might be no limit to their further
progress. But, as had happened so many times before, their hopes were
disappointed. From Ross Island, as far to the eastward as the eye
could see, there extended a lofty, impenetrable wall of ice. To sail
through it was as impossible as sailing through the cliffs of Dover,
Ross says in his description. All they could do was to try to get
round it. And then began the first examination of that part of the
great Antarctic Barrier which has since been named the Ross Barrier.
The wall of ice was followed to the eastward for a distance of 250
miles. Its upper surface was seen to be perfectly flat. The most
easterly point reached was long. 167° W., and the highest latitude
78° 4' S. No opening having been found, the ships returned to the
west, in order to try once more whether there was any possibility of
reaching the Magnetic Pole. But this attempt soon had to be abandoned
on account of the lateness of the season, and in April, 1841, Ross
returned to Hobart.
His second voyage was full of dangers and thrilling incidents, but
added little to the tale of his discoveries.
On February 22, 1842, the ships came in sight of the Barrier, and,
following it to the east, found that it turned north-eastward. Here
Ross recorded an "appearance of land" in the very region in which
Captain Scott, sixty years later, discovered King Edward VII. Land.
On December 17, 1842, Ross set out on his third and last Antarctic
voyage. His object this time was to reach a high latitude along
the coast of Louis Philippe Land, if possible, or alternatively
by following Weddell's track. Both attempts were frustrated by the
On sighting Joinville Land, the officers of the Terror thought they
could see smoke from active volcanoes, but Ross and his men did not
confirm this. About fifty years later active volcanoes were actually
discovered by the Norwegian, Captain C. A. Larsen, in the Jason. A
few minor geographical discoveries were made, but none of any great
This concluded Ross's attempts to reach the South Pole. A magnificent
work had been achieved, and the honour of having opened up the way
by which, at last, the Pole was reached must be ascribed to Ross.
The Pagoda, commanded by Lieutenant Moore, was the next vessel to make
for the South. Her chief object was to make magnetic observations in
high latitudes south of the Indian Ocean.
The first ice was met with in lat. 53° 30' S., on January 25,1845. On
February 5 the Antarctic Circle was crossed in long. 30° 45' E. The
most southerly latitude attained on this voyage was 67° 50', in
long. 39°41' E.
This was the last expedition to visit the Antarctic regions in a ship
propelled by sails alone.
The next great event in the history of the southern seas is the
Challenger expedition. This was an entirely scientific expedition,
splendidly equipped and conducted.
The achievements of this expedition are, however, so well known over
the whole civilized world that I do not think it necessary to dwell
Less known, but no less efficient in their work, were the whalers
round the South Shetlands and in the regions to the south of them. The
days of sailing-ships were now past, and vessels with auxiliary steam
appear on the scene.
Before passing on to these, I must briefly mention a man who throughout
his life insisted on the necessity and utility of Antarctic expeditions
-- Professor Georg von Neumayer.
Never has Antarctic research had a warmer, nobler, and more high-minded
champion. So long as "Antarctica" endures, the name of Neumayer will
always be connected with it.
The steam whaler Grönland left Hamburg on July 22, 1872, in command
of Captain Eduard Dallmann, bound for the South Shetlands. Many
interesting geographical discoveries were made on this voyage.
Amongst other whalers may be mentioned the Balæna, the Diana, the
Active, and the Polar Star of Dundee.
In 1892 the whole of this fleet stood to the South to hunt for
whales in the vicinity of the South Shetlands. They each brought home
with them some fresh piece of information. On board the Balæna was
Dr. William S. Bruce. This is the first time we meet with him on his
way to the South, but it was not to be the last.
Simultaneously with the Scottish whaling fleet, the Norwegian whaling
captain, C. A. Larsen, appears in the regions to the south of the
South Shetlands. It is not too much to say of Captain Larsen that
of all those who have visited the Antarctic regions in search of
whales, he has unquestionably brought home the best and most abundant
scientific results. To him we owe the discovery of large stretches
of the east coast of Graham Land, King Oscar II. Land, Foyn's Land,
etc. He brought us news of two active volcanoes, and many groups of
islands. But perhaps the greatest interest attaches to the fossils
he brought home from Seymour Island -- the first to be obtained from
the Antarctic regions.
In November, 1894, Captain Evensen in the Hertha succeeded in
approaching nearer to Alexander I. Land than either Bellingshausen
or Biscoe. But the search for whales claimed his attention, and he
considered it his duty to devote himself to that before anything else.
A grand opportunity was lost: there can be no doubt that, if Captain
Evensen had been free, he would here have had a chance of achieving
even better work than he did -- bold, capable, and enterprising as
The next whaling expedition to make its mark in the South Polar regions
is that of the Antarctic, under Captain Leonard Kristensen. Kristensen
was an extraordinarily capable man, and achieved the remarkable record
of being the first to set foot on the sixth continent, the great
southern land -- "Antarctica." This was at Cape Adare, Victoria Land,
in January, 1895.
An epoch-making phase of Antarctic research is now ushered in by the
Belgian expedition in the Belgica, under the leadership of Commander
Adrien de Gerlache. Hardly anyone has had a harder fight to set his
enterprise on foot than Gerlache. He was successful, however, and on
August 16, 1897, the Belgica left Antwerp.
The scientific staff had been chosen with great care, and Gerlache
had been able to secure the services of exceedingly able men. His
second in command, Lieutenant G. Lecointe, a Belgian, possessed every
qualification for his difficult position. It must be remembered that
the Belgica's company was as cosmopolitan as it could be -- Belgians,
Frenchmen, Americans, Norwegians, Swedes, Rumanians, Poles, etc. --
and it was the business of the second in command to keep all these
men together and get the best possible work out of them. And Lecointe
acquitted himself admirably; amiable and firm, he secured the respect
As a navigator and astronomer he was unsurpassable, and when he
afterwards took over the magnetic work he rendered great services in
this department also. Lecointe will always be remembered as one of
the main supports of this expedition.
Lieutenant Emile Danco, another Belgian, was the physicist of the
expedition. Unfortunately this gifted young man died at an early
stage of the voyage -- a sad loss to the expedition. The magnetic
observations were then taken over by Lecointe.
The biologist was the Rumanian, Emile Racovitza. The immense mass
of material Racovitza brought home speaks better than I can for his
ability. Besides a keen interest in his work, he possessed qualities
which made him the most agreeable and interesting of companions.
Henryk Arçtowski and Antoine Dobrowolski were both Poles. Their share
of the work was the sky and the sea; they carried out oceanographical
and meteorological observations.
Henry Arçtowski was also the geologist of the expedition -- an
all-round man. It was a strenuous task he had, that of constantly
watching wind and weather. Conscientious as he was, he never let slip
an opportunity of adding to the scientific results of the voyage.
Frederick A. Cook, of Brooklyn, was surgeon to the expedition
-- beloved and respected by all. As a medical man, his calm and
convincing presence had an excellent effect. As things turned out,
the greatest responsibility fell upon Cook, but he mastered the
situation in a wonderful way. Through his practical qualities he
finally became indispensable. It cannot be denied that the Belgian
Antarctic expedition owes a great debt to Cook.
The object of the expedition was to penetrate to the South Magnetic
Pole, but this had to be abandoned at an early stage for want of time.
A somewhat long stay in the interesting channels of Tierra del Fuego
delayed their departure till January 13, 1898. On that date the
Belgica left Staten Island and stood to the South.
An interesting series of soundings was made between Cape Horn and the
South Shetlands. As these waters had not previously been investigated,
these soundings were, of course, of great importance.
The principal work of the expedition, from a geographical point of
view, was carried out on the north coast of Graham Land.
A large channel running to the south-west was discovered, dividing a
part of Palmer Land from the mainland -- Danco's Land. The strait was
afterwards named by the Belgian authorities "Gerlache Strait." Three
weeks were spent in charting it and making scientific observations. An
excellent collection of material was made.
This work was completed by February 12, and the Belgica left Gerlache
Strait southward along the coast of Graham Land, at a date when all
previous expeditions had been in a hurry to turn their faces homeward.
On the 15th the Antarctic Circle was crossed on a south-westerly
course. Next day they sighted Alexander Land, but could not approach
nearer to it than twenty miles on account of impenetrable pack-ice.
On February 28 they had reached lat. 70° 20' S. and long. 85° W. Then a
breeze from the north sprang up and opened large channels in the ice,
leading southward. They turned to the south, and plunged at haphazard
into the Antarctic floes.
On March 3 they reached lat. 70° 30' S., where all further progress
was hopeless. An attempt to get out again was in vain -- they were
caught in the trap. They then had to make the best of it.
Many have been disposed to blame Gerlache for having gone into the ice,
badly equipped as he was, at a time of year when he ought rather to
have been making his way out, and they may be right. But let us look
at the question from the other side as well.
After years of effort he had at last succeeded in getting the
expedition away. Gerlache knew for a certainty that unless he returned
with results that would please the public, he might just as well never
return at all. Then the thickly packed ice opened, and long channels
appeared, leading as far southward as the eye could reach. Who could
tell? Perhaps they led to the Pole itself. There was little to lose,
much to gain; he decided to risk it.
Of course, it was not right, but we can easily understand it.
The Belgica now had thirteen long months before her. Preparations
were commenced at once for the winter. As many seals and penguins as
could be found were shot, and placed in store.
The scientific staff was constantly active, and brilliant
oceanographical, meteorological, and magnetic work was accomplished.
On May 17 the sun disappeared, not to be seen again for seventy
days. The first Antarctic night had begun. What would it bring? The
Belgica was not fitted for wintering in the ice. For one thing,
personal equipment was insufficient. They had to do the best they
could by making clothes out of blankets, and the most extraordinary
devices were contrived in the course of the winter. Necessity is the
mother of invention.
On June 5 Danco died of heart-failure.
On the same day they had a narrow escape of being squeezed in the
ice. Fortunately the enormous block of ice passed under the vessel
and lifted her up without doing her any damage. Otherwise, the first
part of the winter passed off well.
Afterwards sickness appeared, and threatened the most serious danger
to the expedition -- scurvy and insanity. One of them by itself would
have been bad enough. Scurvy especially increased, and did such havoc
that finally there was not a single man who escaped being attacked
by this fearful disease.
Cook's behaviour at this time won the respect and devotion of
all. It is not too much to say that Cook was the most popular man
of the expedition, and he deserved it. From morning to night he
was occupied with his many patients, and when the sun returned it
happened not infrequently that, after a strenuous day's work, the
doctor sacrificed his night's sleep to go hunting seals and penguins,
in order to provide the fresh meat that was so greatly needed by all.
On July 22 the sun returned.
It was not a pleasant sight that it shone upon. The Antarctic winter
had set its mark upon all, and green, wasted faces stared at the
Time went on, and the summer arrived. They waited day by day to see a
change in the ice. But no; the ice they had entered so light-heartedly
was not to be so easy to get out of again.
New Year's Day came and went without any change in the ice.
The situation now began to be seriously threatening. Another winter
in the ice would mean death and destruction on a large scale. Disease
and insufficient nourishment would soon make an end of most of the
Again Cook came to the aid of the expedition.
In conjunction with Racovitza he had thought out a very ingenious way
of sawing a channel, and thus reaching the nearest lead. The proposal
was submitted to the leader of the expedition and accepted by him;
both the plan and the method of carrying it out were well considered.
After three weeks' hard work, day and night, they at last reached
Cook was incontestably the leading spirit in this work, and gained
such honour among the members of the expedition that I think it just
to mention it. Upright, honourable, capable, and conscientious in
the extreme -- such is the memory we retain of Frederick A. Cook from
Little did his comrades suspect that a few years later he would be
regarded as one of the greatest humbugs the world has ever seen. This
is a psychological enigma well worth studying to those who care to
But the Belgica was not yet clear of the ice. After having worked
her way out into the lead and a little way on, she was stopped by
absolutely close pack, within sight of the open sea.
For a whole month the expedition lay here, reaping the same experiences
as Ross on his second voyage with the Erebus and Terror. The immense
seas raised the heavy ice high in the air, and flung it against the
sides of the vessel. That month was a hell upon earth. Strangely
enough, the Belgica escaped undamaged, and steamed into Punta Arenas
in the Straits of Magellan on March 28, 1899.
Modern scientific Antarctic exploration had now been initiated,
and de Gerlache had won his place for all time in the first rank of
While the Belgica was trying her hardest to get out of the ice,
another vessel was making equally strenuous efforts to get in. This
was the Southern Cross, the ship of the English expedition, under the
leadership of Carstens Borchgrevink. This expedition's field of work
lay on the opposite side of the Pole, in Ross's footsteps.
On February 11, 1899, the Southern Cross entered Ross Sea in lat. 70°
S. and long. 174° E., nearly sixty years after Ross had left it.
A party was landed at Cape Adare, where it wintered. The ship wintered
in New Zealand.
In January, 1900, the land party was taken off, and an examination
of the Barrier was carried out with the vessel. This expedition
succeeded for the first time in ascending the Barrier, which from
Ross's day had been looked upon as inaccessible. The Barrier formed
a little bight at the spot where the landing was made, and the ice
sloped gradually down to the sea.
We must acknowledge that by ascending the Barrier, Borchgrevink
opened a way to the south, and threw aside the greatest obstacle
to the expeditions that followed. The Southern Cross returned to
civilization in March, 1900.
The Valdivia's expedition, under Professor Chun, of Leipzig, must
be mentioned, though in our day it can hardly be regarded as an
Antarctic expedition. On this voyage the position of Bouvet Island
was established once for all as lat. 54° 26' S., long. 3° 24' E.
The ice was followed from long. 8° E. to 58° E., as closely as the
vessel could venture to approach. Abundance of oceanographical material
was brought home.
Antarctic exploration now shoots rapidly ahead, and the twentieth
century opens with the splendidly equipped British and German
expeditions in the Discovery and the Gauss, both national undertakings.
Captain Robert F. Scott was given command of the Discovery's
expedition, and it could not have been placed in better hands.
The second in command was Lieutenant Armitage, who had taken part in
the Jackson-Harmsworth North Polar expedition.
The other officers were Royds, Barne, and Shackleton.
Lieutenant Skelton was chief engineer and photographer to the
expedition. Two surgeons were on board -- Dr. Koettlitz, a former
member of the Jackson-Harmsworth expedition, and Dr. Wilson. The latter
was also the artist of the expedition. Bernacchi was the physicist,
Hodgson the biologist, and Ferrar the geologist.
On August 6, 1901, the expedition left Cowes, and arrived at Simon's
Bay on October 3. On the 14th it sailed again for New Zealand.
The official plan was to determine as accurately as possible the
nature and extent of the South Polar lands that might be found, and
to make a magnetic survey. It was left to the leader of the expedition
to decide whether it should winter in the ice.
It was arranged beforehand that a relief ship should visit and
communicate with the expedition in the following year.
The first ice was met with in the neighbourhood of the Antarctic
Circle on January 1, 1902, and a few days later the open Ross Sea
was reached. After several landings had been made at Cape Adare and
other points, the Discovery made a very interesting examination of
the Barrier to the eastward. At this part of the voyage King Edward
VII. Land was discovered, but the thick ice-floes prevented the
expedition from landing. On the way back the ship entered the same
bight that Borchgrevink had visited in 1900, and a balloon ascent
was made on the Barrier. The bay was called Balloon Inlet.
From here the ship returned to McMurdo Bay, so named by Ross. Here
the Discovery wintered, in a far higher latitude than any previous
expedition. In the course of the autumn it was discovered that the
land on which the expedition had its winter quarters was an island,
separated from the mainland by McMurdo Sound. It was given the name
of Ross Island.
Sledge journeys began with the spring. Depots were laid down, and
the final march to the South was begun on November 2, 1902, by Scott,
Shackleton, and Wilson.
They had nineteen dogs to begin with. On November 27 they passed the
80th parallel. Owing to the nature of the ground their progress was
not rapid; the highest latitude was reached on December 30 -- 82°
17' S. New land was discovered -- a continuation of South Victoria
Land. One summit after another rose higher and higher to the south.
The return journey was a difficult one. The dogs succumbed one after
another, and the men themselves had to draw the sledges. It went
well enough so long as all were in health; but suddenly Shackleton
was incapacitated by scurvy, and there were only two left to pull
On February 3 they reached the ship again, after an absence of
Meanwhile Armitage and Skelton had reached, for the first time in
history, the high Antarctic inland plateau at an altitude of 9,000
feet above the sea.
The relief ship Morning had left Lyttelton on December 9. On her way
south Scott Island was discovered, and on January 25 the Discovery's
masts were seen. But McMurdo Sound lay icebound all that year, and
the Morning returned home on March 3.
The expedition passed a second winter in the ice, and in the following
spring Captain Scott led a sledge journey to the west on the ice
plateau. In January, 1904, the Morning returned, accompanied by the
Terra Nova, formerly a Newfoundland sealing vessel. They brought
orders from home that the Discovery was to be abandoned if she could
not be got out. Preparations were made for carrying out the order,
but finally, after explosives had been used, a sudden break-up of
the ice set the vessel free.
All the coal that could be spared was put on board the Discovery from
the relief ships, and Scott carried his researches further. If at that
time he had had more coal, it is probable that this active explorer
would have accomplished even greater things than he did. Wilkes's
"Ringgold's Knoll" and "Eld's Peak" were wiped off the map, and
nothing was seen of "Cape Hudson," though the Discovery passed well
within sight of its supposed position.
On March 14 Scott anchored in Ross Harbour, Auckland Islands. With
rich results, the expedition returned home in September, 1904.
Meanwhile the German expedition under Professor Erich von Drygalski
had been doing excellent work in another quarter.
The plan of the expedition was to explore the Antarctic regions to
the south of Kerguelen Land, after having first built a station on
that island and landed a scientific staff, who were to work there,
while the main expedition proceeded into the ice. Its ship, the Gauss,
had been built at Kiel with the Fram as a model.
The Gauss's navigator was Captain Hans Ruser, a skilful seaman of
the Hamburg-American line.
Drygalski had chosen his scientific staff with knowledge and care,
and it is certain that he could not have obtained better assistants.
The expedition left Kiel on August 11, 1901, bound for Cape Town. An
extraordinarily complete oceanographical, meteorological, and magnetic
survey was made during this part of the voyage.
After visiting the Crozet Islands, the Gauss anchored in Royal Sound,
Kerguelen Land, on December 31. The expedition stayed here a month,
and then steered for the south to explore the regions between Kemp
Land and Knox Land. They had already encountered a number of bergs
in lat. 60° S.
On February 14 they made a sounding of 1,730 fathoms near the supposed
position of Wilkes's Termination Land. Progress was very slow hereabout
on account of the thick floes.
Suddenly, on February 19, they had a sounding of 132 fathoms, and on
the morning of February 21 land was sighted, entirely covered with
ice and snow. A violent storm took the Gauss by surprise, collected
a mass of icebergs around her, and filled up the intervening space
with floes, so that there could be no question of making any way. They
had to swallow the bitter pill, and prepare to spend the winter where
Observatories were built of ice, and sledge journeys were undertaken as
soon as the surface permitted. They reached land in three and a half
days, and there discovered a bare mountain, about 1,000 feet high,
fifty miles from the ship. The land was named Kaiser Wilhelm II. Land,
and the mountain the Gaussberg.
They occupied the winter in observations of every possible kind. The
weather was extremely stormy and severe, but their winter harbour,
under the lee of great stranded bergs, proved to be a good one. They
were never once exposed to unpleasant surprises.
On February 8, 1903, the Gauss was able to begin to move again. From
the time she reached the open sea until her arrival at Cape Town on
June 9, scientific observations were continued.
High land had been seen to the eastward on the bearing of Wilkes's
Termination Land, and an amount of scientific work had been
accomplished of which the German nation may well be proud. Few
Antarctic expeditions have had such a thoroughly scientific equipment
as that of the Gauss, both as regards appliances and personnel.
The Swedish Antarctic expedition under Dr. Otto Nordenskjöld left
Gothenburg on October 16, 1901, in the Antarctic, commanded by Captain
C. A. Larsen, already mentioned. The scientific staff was composed
of nine specialists.
After calling at the Falkland Islands and Staten Island, a course was
made for the South Shetlands, which came in sight on January 10, 1902.
After exploring the coast of Louis Philippe Land, the ship visited
Weddell Sea in the hope of getting southward along King Oscar II. Land,
but the ice conditions were difficult, and it was impossible to reach
Nordenskjöld and five men were then landed on Snow Hill Island, with
materials for an observatory and winter quarters and the necessary
provisions. The ship continued her course northward to the open sea.
The first winter on Snow Hill Island was unusually stormy and cold, but
during the spring several interesting sledge journeys were made. When
summer arrived the Antarctic did not appear, and the land party were
obliged to prepare for a second winter. In the following spring,
October, 1903, Nordenskjöld made a sledge journey to explore the
neighbourhood of Mount Haddington, and a closer examination showed
that the mountain lay on an island. In attempting to work round this
island, he one day stumbled upon three figures, doubtfully human,
which might at first sight have been taken for some of our African
brethren straying thus far to the south.
It took Nordenskjöld a long time to recognize in these beings
Dr. Gunnar Andersson, Lieutenant Duse, and their companion during
the winter, a Norwegian sailor named Grunden.
The way it came about was this. The Antarctic had made repeated
attempts to reach the winter station, but the state of the ice was
bad, and they had to give up the idea of getting through. Andersson,
Duse and Grunden were then landed in the vicinity, to bring news
to the winter quarters as soon as the ice permitted them to arrive
there. They had been obliged to build themselves a stone hut, in
which they had passed the winter.
This experience is one of the most interesting one can read of
in the history of the Polar regions. Badly equipped as they were,
they had to have recourse, like Robinson Crusoe, to their inventive
faculties. The most extraordinary contrivances were devised in the
course of the winter, and when spring came the three men stepped out
of their hole, well and hearty, ready to tackle their work.
This was such a remarkable feat that everyone who has some knowledge
of Polar conditions must yield them his admiration. But there is more
On November 8, when both parties were united at Snow Hill, they
were unexpectedly joined by Captain Irizar, of the Argentine gunboat
Uruguay, and one of his officers. Some anxiety had been felt owing to
the absence of news of the Antarctic, and the Argentine Government
had sent the Uruguay to the South to search for the expedition. But
what in the world had become of Captain Larsen and the Antarctic? This
was the question the others asked themselves.
The same night -- it sounds almost incredible -- there was a knock
at the door of the hut, and in walked Captain Larsen with five of his
men. They brought the sad intelligence that the good ship Antarctic
was no more. The crew had saved themselves on the nearest island,
while the vessel sank, severely damaged by ice.
They, too, had had to build themselves a stone hut and get through the
winter as best they could. They certainly did not have an easy time,
and I can imagine that the responsibility weighed heavily on him who
had to bear it. One man died; the others came through it well.
Much of the excellent material collected by the expedition was lost
by the sinking of the Antarctic, but a good deal was brought home.
Both from a scientific and from a popular point of view this expedition
may be considered one of the most interesting the South Polar regions
have to show.
We then come to the Scotsman, Dr. William S. Bruce, in the Scotia.
We have met with Bruce before: first in the Balæna in 1892, and
afterwards with Mr. Andrew Coats in Spitzbergen. The latter voyage
was a fortunate one for Bruce, as it provided him with the means of
fitting out his expedition in the Scotia to Antarctic waters.
The vessel left the Clyde on November 2,1902, under the command of
Captain Thomas Robertson, of Dundee. Bruce had secured the assistance
of Mossman, Rudmose Brown and Dr. Pirie for the scientific work. In
the following February the Antarctic Circle was crossed, and on the
22nd of that month the ship was brought to a standstill in lat. 70°
25' S. The winter was spent at Laurie Island, one of the South Orkneys.
Returning to the south, the Scotia reached, in March, 1904, lat. 74° 1'
S., long. 22° W., where the sea rapidly shoaled to 159 fathoms. Further
progress was impossible owing to ice. Hilly country was sighted beyond
the barrier, and named "Coats Land," after Bruce's chief supporters.
In the foremost rank of the Antarctic explorers of our time stands
the French savant and yachtsman, Dr. Jean Charcot. In the course of
his two expeditions of 1903 -- 1905 and 1908 -- 1910 he succeeded in
opening up a large extent of the unknown continent. We owe to him
a closer acquaintance with Alexander I. Land, and the discovery of
Loubet, Fallières and Charcot Lands is also his work.
His expeditions were splendidly equipped, and the scientific results
were extraordinarily rich. The point that compels our special
admiration in Charcot's voyages is that he chose one of the most
difficult fields of the Antarctic zone to work in. The ice conditions
here are extremely unfavourable, and navigation in the highest degree
risky. A coast full of submerged reefs and a sea strewn with icebergs
was what the Frenchmen had to contend with. The exploration of such
regions demands capable men and stout vessels.
Sir Ernest Shackleton! -- the name has a brisk sound. At its mere
mention we see before us a man of indomitable will and boundless
courage. He has shown us what the will and energy of a single man
can perform. He gained his first experience of Antarctic exploration
as a member of the British expedition in the Discovery, under Captain
Scott. It was a good school. Scott, Wilson, and Shackleton, formed the
southern party, with the highest latitude as their goal. They reached
82° 17' S. -- a great record at that time. Being attacked by scurvy,
Shackleton had to go home at the first opportunity.
Shortly after his return Shackleton began to make active
preparations. Few people had any faith in Shackleton. Wasn't it
he who was sent home from the Discovery after the first year? What
does he want to go out for again? He has shown well enough that he
can't stand the work! Shackleton had a hard struggle to find the
necessary funds. He left England unheeded and loaded with debts in
August, 1907, on board the Nimrod, bound for the South Pole. With
surprising frankness he declared his intention of trying to reach the
Pole itself. So far as I know, he was the first who ventured to say
straight out that the Pole was his object. This hearty frankness was
the first thing that struck me, and made me look more closely at the
man. Later on I followed his steps with the greatest interest. The
expedition, unnoticed when it left England, was soon forgotten. At
most, people connected the name of Shackleton with the rank of
"Lieutenant R.N.R." And the months went by ....
Then suddenly came a piece of news that made a great stir. It was in
the latter half of March, 1909. The telegraphic instruments were busy
all over the world; letter by letter, word by word, they ticked out the
message, until it could be clearly read that one of the most wonderful
achievements of Polar exploration had been accomplished. Everyone was
spellbound. Was it possible? Could it be true? Shackleton, Lieutenant
R.N.R., had fought his way to lat. 88° 23' S.
Seldom has a man enjoyed a greater triumph; seldom has a man deserved
As the details of Sir Ernest Shackleton's expedition will be fresh
in the minds of English readers, it is unnecessary to recapitulate
them here. A few points may, however, be noted, for comparison with
the Fram's expedition.
The plan was to leave New Zealand at the beginning of 1908 and go
into winter quarters on the Antarctic continent with the necessary
provisions and equipment, while the vessel returned to New Zealand
and came back to take off the land party in the following year.
The land party that wintered in the South was divided into three. One
party was to go eastward to King Edward VII. Land and explore it,
the second was to go westward to the South Magnetic Pole, and the
third southward toward the Geographical Pole.
In the plan submitted to the Royal Geographical Society Shackleton
says: "I do not intend to sacrifice the scientific utility of the
expedition to a mere record-breaking journey, but say frankly, all
the same, that one of my great efforts will be to reach the Southern
It was further intended that the Nimrod should explore Wilkes Land.
As draught animals Shackleton had both ponies and dogs, but chiefly
ponies. The dogs were regarded more as a reserve. Shackleton's
experience was that the Ice Barrier was best suited for ponies. They
also took a motor-car, besides the usual equipment of sledges, ski,
Leaving Lyttelton on January 1, 1908, the Nimrod reached the ice-pack
on the 15th, and arrived in the open Ross Sea in lat. 70° 43' S.,
long. 178° 58' E. The Ross Barrier was sighted on January 23. The
original intention was to follow this, and try to land the shore party
in Barrier Inlet, which was practically the beginning of King Edward
VII. Land; but it was found that Barrier Inlet had disappeared, owing
to miles of the Barrier having calved away. In its place was a long,
wide bay, which Shackleton named the Bay of Whales. This discovery
determined him not to attempt to winter on the Barrier, but on solid
land. At this part of the voyage the course of the Nimrod coincided
very nearly with that of the Fram on her second outward trip.
After an unsuccessful attempt to reach King Edward VII. Land,
Shackleton turned to the west and took up his winter quarters on Ross
Island in McMurdo Sound.
The southern party, composed of Shackleton, Adams, Marshall, and
Wild, started on October 29, 1908, with four sledges, four ponies,
and provisions for ninety-one days. On November 26 Scott's farthest
south, 82° 17' S. was passed. By the time lat. 84° was reached all the
ponies were dead, and the men had to draw the sledges themselves. They
were then faced by the long and difficult ascent of Beardmore Glacier,
and it was not until seventeen days later that they came out on the
high plateau surrounding the Pole. At last, on January 9, 1909, they
were compelled to return by shortness of provisions, having planted
Queen Alexandra's flag in lat. 88° 23' S., long. 162° E.
Everyone who reads Shackleton's diary must feel a boundless admiration
for these four heroes. History can scarcely show a clearer proof of
what men can accomplish when they exert their full strength of will
and body. These men have raised a monument, not only to themselves
and their achievement, but also to the honour of their native land
and the whole of civilized humanity.
Shackleton's exploit is the most brilliant incident in the history
of Antarctic exploration.
The distance covered, out and back, was 1,530 geographical miles. The
time occupied was 127 days -- 73 days out and 54 days back. The
average daily march was about 12 miles.
Meanwhile the other party, composed of Professor David, Mawson,
and Mackay, had set off to determine the position of the South
Magnetic Pole. They had neither ponies nor dogs, and had therefore
to depend solely on their own powers. It seems almost incredible,
but these men succeeded in working their way on foot over sea-ice
and land-ice, cracks and crevasses, hard snow and loose snow, to the
Magnetic Pole, and making observations there. What was better still,
they all came back safe and sound. The total distance covered was
1,260 geographical miles.
It must have been a proud day for the two parties of the expedition
when they met again on the deck of the Nimrod, and could tell each
other of their experiences. More than any of their predecessors,
these men had succeeded in raising the veil that lay over "Antarctica."
But a little corner remained.
Plan and Preparations
"The deity of success is a woman, and she insists on being won,
not courted. You've got to seize her and bear her off, instead of
standing under her window with a mandolin." -- Rex Beach.
"The North Pole is reached."
In a flash the news spread over the world. The goal of which so
many had dreamed, for which so many had laboured and suffered and
sacrificed their lives, was attained. It was in September, 1909,
that the news reached us.
At the same instant I saw quite clearly that the original plan of
the Fram's third voyage -- the exploration of the North Polar basin
-- hung in the balance. If the expedition was to be saved, it was
necessary to act quickly and without hesitation. Just as rapidly as
the message had travelled over the cables I decided on my change of
front -- to turn to the right-about, and face to the South.
It was true that I had announced in my plan that the Fram's third
voyage would be in every way a scientific expedition, and would have
nothing to do with record-breaking; it was also true that many of
the contributors who had so warmly supported me had done so with the
original plan before them; but in view of the altered circumstances,
and the small prospect I now had of obtaining funds for my original
plan, I considered it neither mean nor unfair to my supporters to
strike a blow that would at once put the whole enterprise on its feet,
retrieve the heavy expenses that the expedition had already incurred,
and save the contributions from being wasted.
It was therefore with a clear conscience that I decided to postpone
my original plan for a year or two, in order to try in the meantime
to raise the funds that were still lacking. The North Pole, the
last problem but one of popular interest in Polar exploration,
was solved. If I was now to succeed in arousing interest in my
undertaking, there was nothing left for me but to try to solve the
last great problem -- the South Pole.
I know that I have been reproached for not having at once made
the extended plan public, so that not only my supporters, but the
explorers who were preparing to visit the same regions might have
knowledge of it. I was well aware that these reproaches would come,
and had therefore carefully weighed this side of the matter. As
regards the former -- the contributors to my expedition -- my mind
was soon at rest. They were all men of position, and above discussing
the application of the sums they had dedicated to the enterprise. I
knew that I enjoyed such confidence among these people that they
would all judge the circumstances aright, and know that when the time
came their contributions would be used for the purpose for which they
were given. And I have already received countless proofs that I was
Nor did I feel any great scruples with regard to the other Antarctic
expeditions that were being planned at the time. I knew I should be
able to inform Captain Scott of the extension of my plans before he
left civilization, and therefore a few months sooner or later could
be of no great importance. Scott's plan and equipment were so widely
different from my own that I regarded the telegram that I sent him
later, with the information that we were bound for the Antarctic
regions, rather as a mark of courtesy than as a communication which
might cause him to alter his programme in the slightest degree. The
British expedition was designed entirely for scientific research. The
Pole was only a side-issue, whereas in my extended plan it was the
main object. On this little détour science would have to look after
itself; but of course I knew very well that we could not reach the
Pole by the route I had determined to take without enriching in a
considerable degree several branches of science.
Our preparations were entirely different, and I doubt whether Captain
Scott, with his great knowledge of Antarctic exploration, would
have departed in any point from the experience he had gained and
altered his equipment in accordance with that which I found it best
to employ. For I came far short of Scott both in experience and means.
As regards Lieutenant Shirase in the Kainan Maru, I understood it to
be his plan to devote his whole attention to King Edward VII. Land.
After thus thoroughly considering these questions, I came to the
conclusions I have stated, and my plan was irrevocably fixed. If at
that juncture I had made my intention public, it would only have given
occasion for a lot of newspaper discussion, and possibly have ended
in the project being stifled at its birth. Everything had to be got
ready quietly and calmly. My brother, upon whose absolute silence
I could blindly rely, was the only person I let into the secret of
my change of plan, and he did me many important services during the
time when we alone shared the knowledge. Then Lieutenant Thorvald
Nilsen -- at that time first officer of the Fram, now her commander --
returned home, and I considered it my duty to inform him immediately
of my resolve. The way in which he received it made me feel safe in
my choice of him. I saw that in him I had found not only a capable
and trustworthy man, but a good comrade as well; and this was a point
of the highest importance. If the relations between the chief and the
second in command are good, much unpleasantness and many unnecessary
worries can be avoided. Besides which, a good understanding in this
quarter gives an example to the whole ship. It was a great relief to
me when Captain Nilsen came home in January, 1910, and was able to
help -- which he did with a good will, a capability, and a reliability
that I have no words to commend.
The following was the plan of the Fram's southern voyage: Departure
from Norway at latest before the middle of August. Madeira was to be
the first and only place of call. From there a course was to be made on
the best route for a sailing-ship -- for the Fram cannot be regarded
as anything else -- southward through the Atlantic, and then to the
east, passing to the south of the Cape of Good Hope and Australia,
and finally pushing through the pack and into Ross Sea about New
As a base of operations I had chosen the most southerly point we could
reach with the vessel -- the Bay of Whales in the great Antarctic
Barrier. We hoped to arrive here about January 15. After having
landed the selected shore party -- about ten men -- with materials
for a house, equipment, and provisions for two years, the Fram was
to go out again and up to Buenos Aires, in order to carry out from
there an oceanographical voyage across the Atlantic to the coast of
Africa and back. In October she was to return to the Bay of Whales
and take off the shore party. So much, but no more, could be settled
beforehand. The further progress of the expedition could only be
determined later, when the work in the South was finished.
My knowledge of the Ross Barrier was due to descriptions alone;
but I had so carefully studied all the literature that treats of
these regions, that, on first encountering this mighty mass of ice,
I felt as if I had known it for many years.
After thorough consideration, I fixed upon the Bay of Whales as a
winter station, for several reasons. In the first place, because we
could there go farther south in the ship than at any other point
-- a whole degree farther south than Scott could hope to get in
McMurdo Sound, where he was to have his station. And this would be
of very great importance in the subsequent sledge journey toward the
Pole. Another great advantage was that we came right on to our field
of work, and could see from our hut door the conditions and surface we
should have to deal with. Besides this, I was justified in supposing
that the surface southward from this part of the Barrier would be
considerably better, and offer fewer difficulties than the piled-up
ice along the land. In addition, animal life in the Bay of Whales was,
according to the descriptions, extraordinarily rich, and offered all
the fresh meat we required in the form of seals, penguins, etc.
Besides these purely technical and material advantages which the
Barrier seemed to possess as a winter station, it offered a specially
favourable site for an investigation of the meteorological conditions,
since here one would be unobstructed by land on all sides. It would be
possible to study the character of the Barrier by daily observations on
the very spot better than anywhere else. Such interesting phenomena as
the movement, feeding, and calving of this immense mass of ice could,
of course, be studied very fully at this spot.
Last, but not least, there was the enormous advantage that it was
comparatively easy to reach in the vessel. No expedition had yet been
prevented from coming in here.
I knew that this plan of wintering on the Barrier itself would be
exposed to severe criticism as recklessness, foolhardiness, and so
forth, for it was generally assumed that the Barrier was afloat here,
as in other places. Indeed, it was thought to be so even by those who
had themselves seen it. Shackleton's description of the conditions
at the time of his visit did not seem very promising. Mile after
mile had broken away, and he thanked God he had not made his camp
there. Although I have a very great regard for Shackleton, his work
and his experience, I believe that in this case his conclusion was
too hasty -- fortunately, I must add. For if, when Shackleton passed
the Bay of Whales on January, 24, 1908, and saw the ice of the bay in
process of breaking up and drifting out, he had waited a few hours,
or at the most a couple of days, the problem of the South Pole would
probably have been solved long before December, 1911. With his keen
sight and sound judgment, it would not have taken him long to determine
that the inner part of the bay does not consist of floating barrier,
but that the Barrier there rests upon a good, solid foundation,
probably in the form of small islands, skerries, or shoals, and from
this point he and his able companions would have disposed of the South
Polar question once for all. But circumstances willed it otherwise,
and the veil was only lifted, not torn away.
I had devoted special study to this peculiar formation in the Barrier,
and had arrived at the conclusion that the inlet that exists to-day in
the Ross Barrier under the name of the Bay of Whales is nothing else
than the self-same bight that was observed by Sir James Clark Ross
-- no doubt with great changes of outline, but still the same. For
seventy years, then, this formation -- with the exception of the
pieces that had broken away -- had persisted in the same place. I
therefore concluded that it could be no accidental formation. What,
once, in the dawn of time, arrested the mighty stream of ice at this
spot and formed a lasting bay in its edge, which with few exceptions
runs in an almost straight line, was not merely a passing whim of
the fearful force that came crashing on, but something even stronger
than that -- something that was firmer than the hard ice -- namely,
the solid land. Here in this spot, then, the Barrier piled itself up
and formed the bay we now call the Bay of Whales. The observations we
made during our stay there confirm the correctness of this theory. I
therefore had no misgivings in placing our station on this part of
The plan of the shore party was, as soon as the hut was built and
provisions landed, to carry supplies into the field, and lay down
depots as far to the south as possible. I hoped to get such a quantity
of provisions brought down to lat. 80° S., that we should be able to
regard this latitude as the real starting-place of the actual sledge
journey to the Pole. We shall see later that this hope was more than
fulfilled, and a labour many times greater than this was performed. By
the time this depot work was accomplished winter would be before us,
and with the knowledge we had of the conditions in the Antarctic
regions, every precaution would have to be taken to meet the coldest
and probably the most stormy weather that any Polar expedition had
hitherto encountered. My object was, when winter had once set in, and
everything in the station was in good working order, to concentrate
all our forces upon the one object -- that of reaching the Pole.
I intended to try to get people with me who were specially fitted for
outdoor work in the cold. Even more necessary was it to find men who
were experienced dog-drivers; I saw what a decisive bearing this would
have on the result. There are advantages and disadvantages in having
experienced people with one on an expedition like this. The advantages
are obvious. If a variety of experiences are brought together and
used with common sense, of course a great deal can be achieved. The
experience of one man will often come in opportunely where that
of another falls short. The experiences of several will supplement
each other, and form something like a perfect whole; this is what I
hoped to obtain. But there is no rose without a thorn; if it has its
advantages, it also has its drawbacks. The drawback to which one is
liable in this case is that someone or other may think he possesses
so much experience that every opinion but his own is worthless. It