November 28, 2008

Saturday, 28 November 1908


After the initial enthusiastic donations to the expedition, Amundsen found it hard going raising money. An old friend, F. Herman Gade, now also Norwegian consul in Chicago, wrote to offer help. "My dear friend," Amundsen replied gratefully and somewhat bitterly, "if you with your contacts can manage anything in that direction you will do me a greater service than I can possibly explain. Attitudes here are miserably mean and parochial, and disproportionately hard work is needed to drum up the necessary means." [1]


[1] Roald Amundsen, letter to Herman Gade, 28 November 1908, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.209.

November 24, 2008

Monday, 24 November 1908


F. Hjalmar Johansen, ca.1897. [1]

Applications to join Amundsen's expedition began to come in. One was from Hjalmar Johansen, a name that was already familiar to Amundsen.

"I have studied your plan," wrote Johansen, "with the greatest interest, which I in some ways am already familiar with as I took part in the first Fram expedition with Nansen." Having spent the previous winter in Spitsbergen, he said, "[I] realised that I am still not altogether unqualified for such work," giving an account of his experience and ending, "in other respects I refer you to Professor Nansen." [1]

Johansen had joined Nansen's Arctic expedition in 1893, and being an expert dog driver accompanied Nansen on his dash for the Pole, reaching the celebrated Farthest North of 86° 13.6' N before retreating to Franz Josef Land, but after his return to Norway, Johansen had fallen on hard times, exacerbated by alcoholism and a poor business sense. Nansen had helped his old comrade to find work on various expeditions in the Arctic, and now pressed Amundsen to take him.


[1] "Holder foredrag om polfarer Hjalmar Johansen",
[2] Hjalmar Johansen, letter to Roald Amundsen, 24 November, 1908, quoted by Tor Bomann-Larsen in Roald Amundsen (Stroud, Gloucestershire : Sutton, c2006, c1995), p.70.

November 10, 2008

Tuesday, 10 November 1908


At a gala at the Geographical Society in Christiania, Amundsen presented his plans for his expedition to the Arctic. "Many people," he said, believe that a Polar Expedition is merely an unnecessary waste of money and life. With the concept of Polar Exploration they generally associate the thought of a record; to reach the Pole or Furthest North. And in that case, I must declare myself in agreement. But I want to make it absolutely clear that this -- the assault on the Pole, will not be the aim of the expedition. The main object is a scientific study of the Polar Sea itself."

"With Fram fitted out for 7 years," he went on, "and with a good crew, I propose to leave Norway at the beginning of 1910. My course will run round Cape Horn to San Francisco, where we will coal and provision. Thence, our course will be set for Point Barrow, America's Northernmost promontory. The last news will be sent home from there, before the voyage itself starts. On departing from Point Barrow, it is my intention to continue with the smallest possible crew. A course will be set in a North-North-West direction, where we will seek the most favourable point from which to force a way further to the North. When that has been found, we will try and get on as far as possible, and prepare for a drift of 4 to 5 years over the Polar Sea .... [From] the moment the vessel has been frozen into the ice, the observations begin with which I hope to solve some of the hitherto unsolvable mysteries." [1]

Nansen said that what drove men to explore the Polar regions was "the power of the unknown over the human spirit. As ideas have cleared with the ages, so has this power extended its might, and driven Man willy-nilly onwards along the path of progress."

"It drives us into Nature's hidden powers and secrets, down to the immeasurably little world of the microscopic, and out into the unprobed expanses of the Universe.... [It] gives us no peace until we know this planet on which we live, from the greatest depth of the ocean to the highest layers of the atmosphere. This Power runs like a strand through the whole history of polar exploration. In spite of all declarations of possible profit in one way or another, it was that which, in our hearts, has always driven us back there again, despite all setbacks and suffering." [2]

The next day, King Haakon and Queen Maud opened the subscription list with 20,000 kroner.


[1] Aftenposten, 11 November, 1908, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.206-207.
[2] Aftenposten, 11 November, 1908, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.207.