100 years ago today...

3:28 p.m. on October 20, 2011 (EDT)
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...Roald Amundsen and four companions departed their base camp at Framheim for the south pole.

Now a Norwegian quartet including ex ski-racer Vegard Ulvang and Everest summiteer Stein P. Aasheim are setting off to follow Amundsen's original route, planning to reach the pole on December 14, the same day as Amundsen.

In honor of all this, I have started reading Amundsen's book Sydpolen (The South Pole) in the original Norwegian, in a new edition I bought a few years back, with a new foreword by Børge Ousland along with the original foreword by Fridtjof Nansen. At over 700 pages this will be no light task for me, but it certainly starts out with a bang:

"On the 1oth of February 1911 we began to work our way southwards to lay down depots, and continued the work until the 11th of April. We established 3 depots and stored 300o kilos of supplies, including 1100 kilos of seal meat."

-- the first words in an executive summary the covers the whole round trip in just 12 pages, including a lot of space given to pictures. Then it will be on to the details -- beginning with early Portuguese attempts to push the southern limits of the Known World.

Maybe I can finish by December 14th!

9:55 a.m. on October 21, 2011 (EDT)
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Wow, that sounds like quite the read! 

1:10 p.m. on October 21, 2011 (EDT)
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Amundsen has always been one of my heros. That was an interesting time, with two polar explorers, using different methods, in a race to the pole. A fair amount of intrigue as well(Scott's soon to be widow having an affair with Nansen).

2:14 p.m. on October 21, 2011 (EDT)
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Roland Huntford's The Last Place on Earth is the definitive account of the race to the pole (as long as you don't mind the Scott-bashing) and very readable (it's in English!). There is also an excellent BBC six-part dramatization of the book from back in the 80s. My wife and I tracked it down on DVD so we could see it again -- maybe I'll have to haul it out for the anniversary as well. Highly recommended.

For me, Nansen has always been the bigger man. I'm just amazed that he and Johansen left the Fram while it was still frozen in the arctic pack ice to make a bid for the pole, knowing that there was absolutely no chance that they would be able to find their way back to the ship, and so would have to somehow make their back to the arctic islands. And then they did just that, after making the tough decision to turn around even thought they were only a few days away from the pole, and with a little 8 or 10 month respite overwintering in a walrus-hide hut on the north coast of one of the Franz Josef islands before they wee able to continue south and meet up with a British expedition. They don't come any more audacious than that. I've read both By Ski Over Greenland and Farthest North in English, otherwise I suppose I could add them to my (still very short) Norwegian reading list.

August 20, 2014
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