The First Person to the South Pole 

Carrying supplies over hundreds of miles of ice was just one of the challenges of reaching the South Pole.

Norwegian Roald Amundsen dreamed of being the first person to reach the North Pole. In 1909, two different people announced they had already reached the North Pole. Amundsen changed his mind. He set his sights on the South Pole. 

The South Pole is located in Antarctica, the most remote continent in the world.

The South Pole is the southernmost point in the world. It is located on the ice-covered continent of Antarctica. The average temperature in the summer is -18 °F. In the winter the temperature averages -76°F. It takes days to sail to the coast of Antarctica from New Zealand, Australia, or Argentina. Then, it is nearly an 800-mile trip over the frozen land to reach the South Pole.

Roald Amundsen became the first person to reach the South Pole. 

Reaching the South Pole would be a dangerous trip for Amundsen. Amundsen kept his plans to reach the South Pole secret. Even the crew of his ship, the Fram, believed they were preparing to travel to the North Pole. They only discovered they would be going to the South Pole during the voyage. Amundsen was secretive because he didn’t want more competition. There was already an English expedition to the South Pole, led by Robert Falcon Scott. 

Amundsen reached the Bay of Whales, Antarctica, in January of 1911. It was 60 miles closer to the South Pole than his competitor, Scott. Because it is in the southern hemisphere, winter and summer are the reverse of North America. Winter begins in March. Amundsen’s team would not be able to start their journey until after winter. They needed to do a lot of work before then. They made several trips south, leaving themselves supplies for their journey. Then they settled into camp and waited out the winter.  

Amundsen used skis and sled dogs to carry his supplies. He brought many more dogs than Scott. Amundsen’s team managed to go at a pace of 20 miles a day while the Scott’s team went much more slowly. Amundsen reached the South Pole on December 14, 1911. He used a compass and a sextant to confirm he was at the South Pole. He pitched a tent there, planted the Norwegian flag, and left Scott a letter. Scott would not read it for another 33 days. 

Amundsen knew the race wasn’t just to reach the South Pole. He had to be the first person back to civilization to let people know about his accomplishment. When he arrived in Tazmania, Australia, he sent telegrams to inform people. He granted exclusive interviews to newspapers and toured the world giving lectures about his travels.  

News that Scott died with several other members of the English expedition on the way back from the South Pole dampened the celebrations for Amundsen. However, it also showed what a difficult task Amundsen had achieved.  

What Do You Think? Do you have something you hope to accomplish? How will you do it?

Photo Credits: Top: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division [LC-USZ62-16619]; Bottom: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division [LC-DIG-hec-18401]