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Roald Amundsen

Roald Amundsen was a Norwegian polar explorer who is famous for leading the first successful expedition to the South Pole in 1910-1912. Amundsen was born in 1872 in Borge, Norway. His parents wanted him to study medicine, but he soon dropped out to go to sea, following his lifelong dream of exploration.

Amundsen took part in his first polar expedition, the Belgian Antarctic Expedition, in 1897–1899. It was the first expedition to endure winter in Antarctica. In 1903, Amundsen led the first expedition to successfully traverse the Northwest Passage between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, something explorers had been attempting since the days of Christopher Columbus. During this time Amundsen learned Arctic survival skills from the local people. From them, for example, he learned to use sled dogs.

Amundsen planned to reach the North Pole next, but when he heard that Frederick Cook and Robert Peary reached the pole, he secretly changed his plans. Amundsen set out for Antarctica in 1910 on board the ship Fram previously used by Fridtjof Nansen. The expedition spent the winter in the base camp preparing supplies and equipment.

The first attempt to reach the pole failed, but finally on December 14, 1911, the team consisting of Amundsen and four other men, helped by 16 dogs, reached the South Pole, 35 days before Scott's group. The reasons for Amundsen's success and for Scott's failure in returning from the South Pole have always been the subject of discussion and controversy.

In his later years Amundsen continued exploring the Arctic by ship and plane. In 1926, Amundsen, took part in the first crossing of the Arctic in the airship Norge designed by Italian aeronautical engineer Umberto Nobile. Amundsen disappeared on June 18, 1928, while flying on a rescue mission looking for missing members of Nobile's crew, whose new airship had crashed while returning from the North Pole.

Amundsen received numerous awards, including Congressional Gold Medal. Several land features in the Arctic and the Antarctic are named after him, as well as a crater on the Moon.

Last modified April 29, 2008 by Becca Hatheway.

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