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First to the South Pole - A Photo Gallery of the First Successful Expedition to Reach the South Pole

Updated on December 13, 2016
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Robert writes eclectic and informative articles about weird historical incidents and speculative science.

Members of the South Pole Expedition, With Home Made Snow Goggles
Members of the South Pole Expedition, With Home Made Snow Goggles
Framheim - The Expedition's Headquarters on the Coast
Framheim - The Expedition's Headquarters on the Coast
Roald Amundsen - the First Person to Reach the South Pole
Roald Amundsen - the First Person to Reach the South Pole

Roald Amundsen and the Race to the South Pole

Roald Engelbregt Gravning Amundsen (born 16 July 1872 – died 18 June 1928) was a Norwegian explorer. In 1910, Amundsen led the first successful expedition to ever reach the South Pole in Antarctica, reaching the Pole in 1912, nearly two full years after leaving home.

Amundsen had originally planned to attempt to reach the North Pole (which he eventually did on a later trip, making him the first man to ever reach both the North and South Poles of the Earth) but he scrapped his plans while en route to the North Pole after learning that two rival explorer, Frederick Cook and then Robert Peary both claimed to have already reached the North Pole. This was the age of great arctic exploration, with several nations vying for the honour of being first to reach these desolate ends of the earth.

Having been stymied in his attempt to be the first to reach the North pole, before his expedition had even really gotten underway, Amundsen redirected his ship, the Fram towards the South Pole but did not tell his crew about his plans until they were well on their way south. While in port in Spain, Amundsen sent a telegram to a rival explorer, Robert Scott whom he knew was planning to try to reach the South Pole. The telegram read simply: "Beg to inform you Fram proceeding to Antarctiic - Amundsen."

Thus began an epic race to the South Pole between Amundsen and Scott. Both explorers reached their objective but Amundsen not only reached the South Pole sixteen days before Scott and his team reached it, he was able to return alive. Scott and his men died on the return trip from cold and starvation.



A member of the expedition bundled up in a fur coat.
A member of the expedition bundled up in a fur coat. | Source

An Improvised Expedition

Incredibly, despite the last minute decision to try for the South Pole, a significantly different type of journey than the one originally planned, Amundsen's expedition proved to be the better equipped and planned than that of Scott. While Scott's expedition relied on horses and men to pull the sleds, Amundsen bet on the ability of Eskimo sled dogs to not only carry the enormous weight of his sleds but to endure the extremely cold weather which often reached 80 degrees below zero.

However no amount of preparation or superior equipment could eliminate the enormous risks faced by the Amundsen expedition. The expedition entered Antarctic waters in a sailing vessel - they were completely cut off from any hope of rescue should something go wrong. Unlike today's Antarctic scientists, they could not hope for any supply drops by plane nor to be medivaced in case any of the crew were injured or fell ill. All they had to rely upon was their own courage and the primitive equipment that they brought with them or could improvise along the way. Being first also meant that the explorers did not have any maps to follow - although the coast of Antarctica had been surveyed to some extent by previous explorers, the interior was a terra incognita. Therefore the expedition did not know whether the rout which they had planned out was feasible or whether they would meet a tragic end in some hidden crevasse.

Getting to the South Pole - Then and Now

Antarctic Transportation in 1911
Antarctic Transportation in 1911

Antarctic Exploration Today

Antarctica - Photo Gallery of a Journey to the South Pole

Amundsen was conscious of the historical significance of being the first to reach the South Pole, so he documented his journey by taking a series of photographs. These pictures are remarkable because they give us an idea of how the men and dogs of the expedition lived and worked under some of the harshest conditions on earth. It is also remarkable that the expedition was even able to take these photographs given the fragile nature of the photographic equipment available at the time: the pictures were taken on glass plate negatives, and then had to be transported without cracking over thousands of miles of uneven ice, in frigid temperatures.

The Fram - the Ship Used by Amundsen to Bring His Team and Supplies to Antarctica
The Fram - the Ship Used by Amundsen to Bring His Team and Supplies to Antarctica
Ice Flows
Ice Flows
Human and Canine Members of the South Pole Expedition
Human and Canine Members of the South Pole Expedition
Going Ashore in Antarctica for the First Time
Going Ashore in Antarctica for the First Time
A Supply Depot
A Supply Depot
Hunting Antarctic Seals
Hunting Antarctic Seals
Tents for the Dogs. The temperature was so cold that even the hardy Eskimo dogs needed shelter.
Tents for the Dogs. The temperature was so cold that even the hardy Eskimo dogs needed shelter.
The Barrier - This great ice barrier blocked the way inland from the coast. It had to be traversed in order to reach the South Pole.
The Barrier - This great ice barrier blocked the way inland from the coast. It had to be traversed in order to reach the South Pole.
Entrance to an underground hut carved into the snow.
Entrance to an underground hut carved into the snow.
A member of the South Pole expedition on skis.
A member of the South Pole expedition on skis.
The sled dogs inside one of their tents. They look cold.
The sled dogs inside one of their tents. They look cold.
Framheim Buried in Snow
Framheim Buried in Snow
The men of the expedition mending their clothes.
The men of the expedition mending their clothes.
A Cold Winter Scene in Antarctica
A Cold Winter Scene in Antarctica
A workshop carved into the side of the great Barrier
A workshop carved into the side of the great Barrier
Over 80 Degrees Below Zero. Note the wheel at the back of the dog sled - it is meant to measure the distance traveled which in turn allowed the expedition to tell how far they were from the South Pole
Over 80 Degrees Below Zero. Note the wheel at the back of the dog sled - it is meant to measure the distance traveled which in turn allowed the expedition to tell how far they were from the South Pole
Amundsen in his Fur Parka
Amundsen in his Fur Parka
The Expedition on the Way to the South Pole
The Expedition on the Way to the South Pole
A supply depot. As the expedition approached the Pole, it left caches of food and supplies behind to lighten the dogs' load.  The expedition would retrace its steps and use these stores on the return trip.
A supply depot. As the expedition approached the Pole, it left caches of food and supplies behind to lighten the dogs' load. The expedition would retrace its steps and use these stores on the return trip.

The Final Push Towards the South Pole

Another Supply Depot
Another Supply Depot
Making Camp Atop an Ice Plateau
Making Camp Atop an Ice Plateau
Stopping to rest
Stopping to rest
Towards the South Pole on Dog Sleds
Towards the South Pole on Dog Sleds
The expedition in a place they called the Devil's Ballroom because of the incredibly brutal winds they endured.
The expedition in a place they called the Devil's Ballroom because of the incredibly brutal winds they endured.
Two of the expedition's dogs.
Two of the expedition's dogs.
Crossing a Very Dangerous Ice Bridge
Crossing a Very Dangerous Ice Bridge
Measuring the Depth of a Crevasse. Death was waiting to take anyone who stepped on the wrong spot.
Measuring the Depth of a Crevasse. Death was waiting to take anyone who stepped on the wrong spot.

At the South Pole

Planting the Norwegian Flag at the South Pole.
Planting the Norwegian Flag at the South Pole.

About Antarctica

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    • Fertile Forest profile image

      Fertile Forest 

      7 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Tremendous Hub. Will follow you to some interesting places from now on! Thanks.

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