World History 1911 Part 2

About the history of the world in 1911, Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen reaches the South Pole.

TWO CENTURIES OF WORLD HISTORY: 1778-1978

1911

Dec. 14 Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, 39, and four others reached the South Pole. The crew had constructed rest depots at 80 deg, and 81 deg, and 82 deg. latitude prior to setting out from the Bay of Whales on the Ross Sea on Oct. 20. Dressed Eskimo-style in reindeer skin, the men glided along the ice in four sledges pulled by 52 dogs. To guide their return, they cut blocks of snow from the surface and piled them on top of one another. At each of these 150 snow beacons they left a tag bearing the beacon number, its exact position, and the distance and direction of the next marker. On Nov. 17, the party reached the foot of the mountain barrier guarding the pole. Fully prepared for the obstacle, they methodically began the dangerous climb up the natural divide between the plateau and the coastal region. They completed the ascent on Dec. 6, attaining a height of 10,750 ft. Food, of course, was a concern. To supplement his meager rations of seal meat, biscuit, chocolate, and powdered milk, and to feed his dog teams, Amundsen arranged to butcher some of the dogs as he went. Although the surviving animals showed little reluctance to cannibalize their brothers, the explorers proved a bit squeamish. As Amundsen later wrote: "There was more than one among us who at first would not hear of taking any part in the feast; but as . . . appetites became sharper. . . we all thought and talked of nothing but dog cutlets, dog steaks, and the like. But on the first evening we put a restraint on ourselves; we thought we could not fall upon our four-footed friends and devour them before they had had time to grow cold. . . . " Once they reached the South Pole, the five Norwegians unfurled their nation's flag and planted it in the ice, as Amundsen declared, "Thus, we plant thee, beloved flag, at the South Pole, and give to the plain on which it lies the name of King Haakon VII's Plateau." Down to just 16 dogs, the crew--which besides Amundsen consisted of Helmer Hanssen, Oscar Wisting, Sverre Hassel, and Olav Bjaaland--abandoned one sledge, lashed 8 dogs each to the other two, and returned safely home to the plaudits of the world.

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