Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Antarctica 2011: Celebration At The Pole!

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the arrival of Roald Amundsen, and his team, at the South Pole. To commemorate the event, I have posted a lengthy article about the race between Amundsen and his chief rival, Robert Falcon Scott, on Gadling this morning. You can read it here. Most of you already know the story of course. Amundsen, who employed techniques and skills that he learned from the Inuit tribes in the Arctic, was able to use sled dogs and a shorter approach to beat Scott to the Pole. The tragic story of Scott and his men will unfold in future posts, but today we celebrate the Norwegian explorer, who became the first to reach the bottom of the world, 90ºS.

To mark this auspicious occasion, Norway's Prime Minister, Jens Stoltenberg, skied the last few kilometers to the Pole along the very same route that Amundsen and his team took on their historic expedition. When he arrived at the Pole, Stoltenberg was joined by research scientists, explorers, adventure travelers, and other dignitaries in a ceremony that paid homage to the spirit of Amundsen, who would later become the first person to visit both the North and South Pole, while also pioneering routes through the Northeast and Northwest passages.

Unfortunately, most of the teams skiing to the South Pole who had hoped to be there to celebrate the event weren't able to make it. Bad weather delayed the start of the season by as much as two weeks, and that through schedules off dramatically. One team that gave it their best was the South Pole 1911-2011 squad, who would have liked to have one more day to complete their journey. Instead, the four man team broke into two units, with two of the men (Jan-Gunnar Winther and Stein Aasheim) were picked up by plane and transported the final distance so that they could be on hand in an official capacity at the ceremony. Their two companions, Vegard Ulvang and Harald Dag Jollie, both continued skiing on, and did manage to reach the Pole today, although it was after the ceremony was over. Still, the two men had to feel incredibly satisfied to have completed their own expedition a century after the man who inspired them.

Congratulations to the first visitors to the Pole this season and to all of those who made it for the ceremony. Here's to another hundred years of adventure in the Antarctic.

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