Roald Amundsen

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Roald Engelbregt Gravning Amundsen
BirthplaceBorge, Østfold, Norway
Known for First expedition to the South and North Pole

Amundsen, Roald

(Roald Engelbregt Grauning Amundsen) (rō`äl ä`mo͝onsən), 1872–1928, Norwegian polar explorer; the first person to reach the South Pole. He served (1897–99) as first mate on the Belgica (under the Belgian Adrien de GerlacheGerlache, Adrien de
, 1866–1934, Belgian naval officer and explorer. Sailing with Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen who would later be the first to reach the South Pole, Gerlache led a scientific expedition to Antarctica in 1897–99.
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) in an expedition to the Antarctic, and he commanded the Gjöa in the Arctic in the first negotiation of the Northwest PassageNorthwest Passage,
water routes through the Arctic Archipelago, N Canada, and along the northern coast of Alaska between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. Even though the explorers of the 16th cent.
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 (1903–6); the Gjöa was the first single ship to complete the route through the Northwest Passage. His account appeared in English as Amundsen's North West Passage (1908).

Amundsen then purchased Fridtjof NansenNansen, Fridtjof
, 1861–1930, Norwegian arctic explorer, scientist, statesman, and humanitarian. The diversity of Nansen's interests is shown in his writings, which include Eskimo Life (1893), Closing-Nets for Vertical Hauls and for Vertical Towing (1915),
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's Fram and prepared to drift toward the North Pole and then finish the journey by sledge. The news that Robert E. PearyPeary, Robert Edwin
, 1856–1920, American arctic explorer, b. Cresson, Pa. In 1881 he entered the U.S. navy as a civil engineer and for several years served in Nicaragua, where he was engaged in making surveys for the Nicaragua Canal.
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 had anticipated him in reaching the North Pole caused Amundsen to consider going south. He was successful in reaching the South Pole on Dec. 14, 1911, after a dash by dog team and skis from the Bay of Whales (an inlet of Ross Sea). He arrived there just 35 days before Robert F. ScottScott, Robert Falcon,
1868–1912, British naval officer and antarctic explorer. He commanded two noted expeditions to Antarctica. The first expedition (1901–4), in the Discovery,
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. This story he told in The South Pole (tr. 1913). In the course of these expeditions, he added much valuable scientific and geological information to the knowledge of Antarctica.

In 1918, back in the Arctic, Amundsen set out to negotiate the Northeast Passage in the Maud. After two winters he arrived at Nome, the first after N. A. E. NordenskjöldNordenskjöld, Nils Adolf Erik, Baron
, 1832–1901, Swedish geologist and arctic explorer, first to navigate the Northeast Passage, b. Finland. He served as geologist on several expeditions to Spitsbergen under Otto Torrell, the noted Swedish geologist, on one of which
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 to sail along the whole northern coast of Europe and Asia. Amundsen then turned to air exploration. He and Lincoln EllsworthEllsworth, Lincoln,
1880–1951, American explorer, b. Chicago, Ill. He was a surveyor and engineer in railroad building and later a prospector and mining engineer in NW Canada. He became the financial supporter and associate of Roald Amundsen in his arctic aviation ventures.
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 in 1925 failed to complete a flight across the North Pole, but the next year in the dirigible Norge, built and piloted by Umberto NobileNobile, Umberto
, 1885–1978, Italian aeronautical engineer and arctic explorer. He designed the dirigible Norge and piloted it in the Amundsen-Ellsworth flight over the North Pole in 1926.
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, they succeeded in flying over the pole and the hitherto unexplored regions of the Arctic Ocean N of Alaska.

A bitter controversy followed with Nobile as to the credit for the success. Yet in 1928, when Nobile crashed in the Italia, Amundsen set out on a rescue attempt that cost him his life. Although credit for the first flight over the North Pole has long been given to Richard ByrdByrd, Richard Evelyn,
1888–1957, American aviator and polar explorer, b. Winchester, Va. He took up aviation in 1917, and after World War I he gained great fame in the air. He commanded the naval air unit with the arctic expedition of D. B. MacMillan in 1925.
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, notes from Byrd's diary suggest that he may not actually have reached the pole, in which case Amundsen and Nobile would hold that distinction. The story of the ventures with Ellsworth, written by the two of them, appear in Our Polar Flight (1925) and The First Crossing of the Polar Sea (1927).


See the autobiographical My Life as an Explorer (tr. 1927).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Amundsen, Roald


Born July 16, 1872; died 1928. Norwegian polar explorer. Born in the city of Borge into the family of a captain, the owner of a shipyard. A student of the medical faculty of Kristiania University from 1890 to 1892.

Amundsen was a sailor and navigator on various ships from 1894 to 1899. Beginning in 1903 he made several expeditions for which he became famous. He made the first crossing of the Northwest Passage in 1903–06 on a small commercial vessel, the Gjöa, sailing westward from Greenland to Alaska. He set off for the antarctic on the Fram, disembarked at the Bay of Whales, and reached the south pole by dogsled on Dec. 14–16, 1911, a month ahead of R. Scott’s British expedition.

On his return from the antarctic, Amundsen wanted to follow F. Nansen’s drift across the Arctic Ocean by first crossing the Northeast Passage along the northern coast of Eurasia. In the summer of 1918 his expedition left Norway on the Maud and reached the Bering Straits in 1920. Amundsen spent several years collecting funds and equipment for a flight to the north pole. In 1926 he headed the first transarctic flight on the dirigible Norway, traveling from Spitsbergen to Alaska via the North Pole. In an attempt to locate and rescue the expedition of U. Nobile, whose dirigible Italy had been lost over the Arctic Ocean, Amundsen set off in the seaplane Latam on June 18 and, together with his crew, perished in the Barents Sea.

A sea, a mountain, and the American Amundsen-Scott scientific research station have been named after Amundsen, as have a gulf and a trench in the Arctic Ocean.


In Russian translation: Sobr. soch., vols. 1–5. Leningrad, 1936–39.
Perelet cherez Ledovityi okean. Moscow, 1927. (Jointly with [L.] Ellsworth.)
Na korable “Mod”: Ekspeditsiia vdol’ severnogo poberezh’ia Azii. Moscow-Leningrad, 1929.
luzhnyi polius. Moscow-Leningrad, 1937.
Moia zhizn’. Moscow, 1959.


D’iakonov, M. Amundsen. Moscow, 1937.
Iakovlev, A. Rual Amundsen. Moscow, 1948.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.