Hornorkesteret to perform at celebration of the conquest of The South Pole on Dec. 14th

Hornorkesteret will be performing in the pavillion in the Church Park in downtown Fredrikstad on December 14th in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the conquest of The South Pole, www.nansenamundsen.no reports.

In addition to the concert by Hornorkesteret, the celebration will contain live streaming audio from Antarctica with interactions from ambient musician Origami Antarktika, 17 sled dogs and sleds, free warm drinks, the animated short film “Fram og tilbake” about Roald Amundsen made at E6 Østfold Medieverksted with music by Hornorkesteret and the world premiere of Hornorkesterets epic song honouring Roald Amundsens achievements, “Roaldskvadet”.

Fjær og JernAlso, the long awaited CD “Fjær og Jern” is released on this glorious day, and Hornorkesteret will perform several tracks from the album live.

Born at Tomta in Borge just outside of Fredrikstad, Amundsen was the first man to reach both the South and the North Poles, and on December 14th 1911, he and his men planted the norwegian flag on the pole after a meticulously planned and executed operation. From his early days, he dreamt about becoming a polar explorer. Reading about the horrors Sir John Franklin and his men met while trying to navigate the North West Passage and reading about Fridtjof Nansen crossing Greenland on skis, inspired the young Amundsen to become a hero. Amundsen grew up in a shipping family and he had heard tales of faraway worlds since he was child. Nothing fascinated him more than ice and snow. He would sleep with his window open all year round to toughen himself to become a polar explorer.

Later, he would be part of the first expedition to spend the winter in the Antarctic with the Belgica, navigate the North West Passage as the first man on earth in 1906, use dogsleds for the South Pole in 1911, become an aviation pioneer, almost perish with two planes in the arctic in 1925 and finally cross the whole polar ocean of the Arctic in the italian-built dirigible “Norge” in 1926. Amundsen disappeared in June 1928 on a rescue mission to save his by then bitter enemy, Umberto Nobile, who had crashlanded with his new dirigible, the Italia.

Amundsens life  is something to celebrate! Bring the kids -this is a fun family event. Wear something warm.

17:30 – 18:00:
Live streaming sounds from the PALAOA Antarctic base
Mixed by Origami Antarktika – Ambient music
Serving of boullion and other hot drinks
Tents with polar stories
Dogsled riding/meet the dogs presented by Kennel Nairebis and their Siberian Huskys

Opening speech

World premiere of the epic hero song “Roaldskvadet” by Hornorkesteret

Animated short: “Fram og tilbake” produced at E6 Østfold Medieverksted

Concert with Hornorkesteret, The Norwegian Polar Orchestra

Release of CD “Fjær og Jern” by Hornorkesteret

19:15 – 19:45:
Live streaming sounds from the PALAOA Antarctic base
Mixed by Origami Antarktika – Ambient music
Serving of boullion and other hot drinks
Tents with polar stories
Dogsled riding/meet the dogs presented by Kennel Nairebis and their Siberian Huskys

The event is listed on the official Nansen-Amundsen website:

The event page on Facebook:

Hornorkesterets web page:

The event is made in collaboration with Visit Fredrikstad and Kennel Nairebis.

Film from Amundsens 1925 aviation expedition restored and released on DVD

“Roald Amundsen – Lincoln Ellsworths flyveekspedisjon 1925” is a new DVD release of film footage from the nearly disastrous 1925 aeroplane expedition led by Norwegian polar hero Roald Amundsen. Financed by american businessman Lincoln Ellsworth, who also was a member of the expedition, the aeroplanes were registered as N24 and N25 and subsequently equipped for polar flights. They took off from King´s Bay in Svalbard on May 21st in an attempt to carry out the first transpolar flight of the North Pole, in order to establish once and for all whether there was in fact land in the area.

After only eight hours in the air, engine trouble caused them to make an emergency landing at 87° 44′ north, in which the N24 was broken beyond repair. Trapped on the constantly moving ice, the crew of six did not know if they would survive. The film shows them struggling to make a temporary runway long enough for the remaining aeroplane to take off, which took them more than three weeks. It was the northernmost latitude reached by plane at that time.

Shoveling over 600 tons of ice while consuming only 400 grams of daily food rations, the crew finally managed to take off in the N25 piloted by Hjalmar Riiser-Larsen, barely becoming airborne above the cracking ice. They managed to reach a fjord on the coast of Nordaustlandet at Svalbard before running out of fuel,  making this one of the most exciting episodes in the history of aviation.

The newly restored film is released by The Norwegian Film Institute and The National Library of Norway as a feature length documentary and has a new soundtrack by Matti Bye and Kristian Holmgren and a choice of norwegian, russian, german or english text.

You can buy the DVD from the Norwegian Film Institute here.

Short clip from the film here

I have not seen this DVD yet, but several short clips have been featured in documentaries before. As an owner of a copy of the excellent release “Roald Amundsens South Pole Expedition 1910-1912” also by the Norwegian Film Institute, I am certain this release holds up to the same high technical and historical standard.

Jonas Qvale/Hornorkesteret

Aftenposten article

The Nansen-Amundsen-Year article

Wikipedia article

A detailed account of the expedition can be found here

Roald Amundsens diary: 100 years ago today

From Roald Amundsens diary of the South Pole expedition 1910-1912 which is being published continuosly by the Fram Museum at Bygdøy near Oslo.

February 4 – Saturday

Great commotion! When we drove down to the vessel this morning, instead of our dear lonely Fram, there were two ships at the barrier. The latest arrival, a large barque, Terra Nova.

We were told that it had come in at midnight last night. Lt. Campbell, leader of the eastern party, immediately paid a visit on board. Nilsen received him. They had been eastwards and tried to come into King Edward VII land, but without result. They were now on their way back. Would go first to the main station in McMurdo Sound and later to Cape North to look for new land. Lt. Pennell was in charge of the ship. Both these and the doctor came up to the hut and ate breakfast with us. Later, Nilsen, Prestrud and I went on board their ship and ate lunch with them. They were exceptionally amiable and offered to take post to Fullerton. They left at 2pm. Made a round trip this morning. Have used the rest of the day to tidy up. Have had a strange experience.

We have all had colds after meeting the Englishmen. We are all sneezing and sniffing.
Posted: 04 February 1911 by Roald Amundsen

February 3 – Friday
Drove up 24 newly shot seals this morning. Set up a 16-man tent. Divided them up and stuffed the meat in. All the fillets and sirloin removed for human consumption. All of us here in the hut are much fonder of seal meat than tinned food, and prefer not to taste anything else.

Posted: 03 February 1911 by Roald Amundsen

February 2 – Thursday
It was -21.5°C last night. Wonderful summer temperature. This morning the whole roof was covered with tar insulation material and we are now almost finished with the unloading. These are tiring days.
Posted: 02 February 1911 by Roald Amundsen

February 1 – Wednesday
This evening while we sat and ate, Lindstrøm reported a seal had come right up to the hut on the barrier. Helmer Hansen welcomed it and tomorrow we shall make use of the fillets.

Posted: 01 February 1911 by Roald Amundsen

January 31 – Tuesday
We get more and more organised every day now. Today, Lindstrøm has mounted the Lux lamp, a wonderful furnishing which will give us much pleasure.
Posted: 31 January 1911 by Roald Amundsen

Terje Isungset åpnet Nansen-Amundsen-året i Tromsø

Nansen-Amundsen-året ble offisielt åpnet i Tromsø 23. januar ved at Terje Isungset spilte på 100 år gammel is fra Sydpolen.

Instrumentet, som han kaller sørpolofon, bestod av fire issylindre av ulik lengde med en diameter på 8-10 centimeter. De var montert etter xylofon-modellen på en resonanskasse av is, og han spilte på dem med mindre isklkubber.

Sørpolofonen etter konserten.

Sørpolofonen etter konserten.

Sørpolofonen tålte ikke mildværet i Tromsø, og sylindrene ble tydeligvis ganske porøse av en halvtimes venting etter lydsjekken. De hadde mista en del klang, og brakk opp under sydpollåten, som isflak i vårsola. Det var likevel en stor opplevelse å høre og se dette instrumentet. Kanskje akkurat disse snøflakene landet på Amundsens bare hode da han hilste flagget ved polpunktet?

Det var en flott konsert Isungset leverte sammen med sangeren Lena Nymark. De har funnet en nydelig formel med klangfull isperkusjon og lett, spretten kveding.

Lena Nymark og Terje Isungset

Lena Nymark (sang) og Terje Isungset (Svalbard-is).

Isungset hadde mer gammel is i å by på. En annen melodisk-perkusiv variant var biter av 500 år gammel is fra Svalbard, som han hadde plassert på et isbrett og spilte på med andre gamle isbiter. Han spilte også på hengende stemte isplater av klar is, som med en smule delay gir lange, dype og varme toner. Til slutt, eller var det midt i, tok han opp isluren, og blåste kalde, rå og forlokkende toner, som vindens evige jag over polisen.

Isungset og luren.

Isungset blåser i luren.

Med vakker sang og lyden av arktis og antarktis ble det en konsert verdig en polfarer eller to. Isungset er en kreativ musiker og instrumentmaker, og bringer tradisjonene fra Amundsen og Nansen videre i sin utforskning av isens musikalske egenskaper. Det er underlige og vare toner han får ut av istrumentene. Enkelt, skjørt, evig og uhørt.

Isperkusjon, islur, Svalbard-is og hengende isglockenspiel.

Fra venstre: isperkusjon, islur, Svalbard-is og hengende isglockenspiel.

Tromsøs ordfører Arild Hausberg og Norges utenriksminister Jonas Gahr Støre bidro også under åpningen.


Erlend Lien

Proposal for a Monument to Roald Amundsen at Microgaleria Sur, Canary Islands

Hornorkesteret’s Jonas Qvale made a proposal for a “National Monument to Roald Amundsen” in a contest earlier this year (he has a background in visual arts). A fund collected after Amundsens disappearence back in 1928 was now seeking proposals for a worthy monument to the world’s greatest polar hero. The entries were juried and later exhibited at the Fram Museum. Qvales proposal was not chosen, but he is still looking for financing and a place for this monument.

“Roald Amundsens Verden” (Roald Amundsen’s world) shows what could have been “Amundsens view of the world”, with an exaggerated emphasis on the polar regions, shrinking the continents except Antarctica to a narrow band around the planet’s waist. The continents would be polished Iddefjord granite with rougher surfaces on oceans. The ice caps would be inlaid and slightly raised in Rennebu ice green granite. Amundsens main expeditions would be carved and painted as red dotted lines crisscrossing the globe.

Rather than as a stone monument at Bygdøynes outside of Oslo, the work “Roald Amundsens Verden” is now being presented in styrofoam and papier maché as a miniature at the origami republika run MICROGALERIA SUR in San Fernando, Gran Canaria, Spain. Thanks to Tore H. Boe for running both the gallery and the republika, you are an inspiration to a lot of people!

The exhibition opened December 14th 2010, on the 99th anniversary of the conquest of the South Pole. At the modest but festive vernissage, the Norwegian emissiaries met with the directors and local MICROGALERIA SUR staff and officially unveiled the Amundsen monument proposal as well as additional rooms with fascinating miniature art by fellow Origami artists Origami Kanaria A195/A242, Jens Stegger Ledaal A178,  Origami Boe A22, and Magne Rudjord A286. See all of it here.

We are still seeking funding to realize the piece “Roald Amundsens Verden” in the anniversary year of 2011 -contact us at hornorkesteret@lavabit.com if you can help.

Mystery Arctic box unearthed, may contain Franklin’s log, but more likely Amundsens magnetic observations

Wally Porter (left) shows the cairn where his grandfather buried what may be the logbooks from the ill-fated Franklin expedition to writer Ken McGoogan. Photograph by: Sheena Fraser McGoogan, Postmedia News

Vancouver Sun via Circumpolar Musings:
By Ken McGoogan, Postmedia News September 5, 2010

An old wooden box excavated from beneath an Arctic cairn is being flown unopened Monday to Ottawa from the Nunavut hamlet of Gjoa Haven.

The Nunavut-government launched the excavation after an Inuit family relayed oral history suggesting that the cairn contained records from the ill-fated 1845 expedition led by Sir John Franklin in search of the Northwest Passage.

But Canadian historian Kenn Harper, who has spent months researching the cairn, says the box will prove to contain records left in 1905 by explorer Roald Amundsen during the first-ever navigation of the Passage.

The box, which measures 14.5 x 11 x 6.5 inches, will be opened and its contents preserved at the Canadian Conservation Institute.

Harper, author of the best-selling Inuit biography Give Me My Fathers Body, and also Honorary Danish Consul in Nunavut, says the box contains papers that Amundsen buried after spending almost two years in Gjoa Haven tracking the movements of the North Magnetic Pole.

He began investigating the cairn after learning of the claim by descendants of George Washington Porter II, a Hudson’s Bay Company manager based in that hamlet on King William Island.

Harper says that Eric Mitchell of the HBC, the senior man in the territory, dug up the Amundsen records in 1958, with the help of Porter II. The two men found documents that had first been discovered in 1927 by William Paddy Gibson, an HBC inspector who reburied them.

Gibson wrote in The Beaver magazine of finding the records, which included a signed photograph of Georg V. Neumayer, a German scientist who had sparked Amundsens interest in the North Magnetic Pole.

Harper predicted that the Saturday excavation would turn up an old HBC ammunition box. Andrew Porter, who runs a tourism business in Gjoa Haven, says that just such a box was found three feet beneath the cairn.

Harper says the unopened box contains a metal canister in a bed of tallow. Inside the canister, conservators will find the Amundsen documents in an envelope sewn into an oilskin packet and wrapped in pages from a 1950s Nautical Almanac and an Edmonton newspaper.

Harper, who has lived in the Arctic for over 30 years, doubts that any Franklin documents will be found. He believes that oral history has confused Franklin and Amundsen.

Original article here

Amundsen honoured in Gjoa Haven

(CBC News, 25 August 2010) — Residents of Gjoa Haven, Nunavut, held a special flag-raising ceremony with Norwegian officials this week to honour Roald Amundsen, who spent two years in the community during his famed quest through the Northwest Passage. The Norwegian ambassador attended Monday’s ceremony, in which the Canadian and Norwegian flags were raised near the Amundsen Centenary Cairn in Gjoa Haven. Also in attendance was Gier Klover, the director of the Fram Museum in Oslo, Norway. “I’ve been interested in polar histories since I was a kid, so Gjoa Haven, that’s the place I’ve read about for 30 years,” Klover told CBC News on Tuesday. “Just to be here, and the incredible friendliness and hospitality of the community, is very touching.” Klover said his museum is dedicated to polar explorers like Amundsen, who set sail for the Northwest Passage in 1903 in his ship, Gjoa. The museum is building an extension to house the Gjoa, he added. Amundsen spent two winters near King William Island, in what is now Gjoa Haven, learning from local Inuit as he prepared for his expedition. “He perfected the skills, making him the ultimate polar explorer,” Klover said. “He had huge respect for local learnings and local knowledge, and he spent every day trying to learn as much as possible there, as opposed to many other explorers.” Amundsen made history when he completed the east-to-west voyage across the passage in 1906. Klover said Monday’s ceremony commemorates the growing partnership between his museum and the community of Gjoa Haven. He said he brought some photographs that were taken by Amundsen, as a gift to the community.

Via the excellent polar newsring Circumpolar Musings
Original article here

Roald Amundsen and the Latham disappeared June 18th 1928

Hornorkesteret: Today we mourn the premature death of Roald Amundsen on June 18th 1928, 82 years ago. On a rescue mission to save his by then bitter enemy – the Italian general Umberto Nobile who designed the dirigible “Norge” used for the first transpolar flight.

The small seaplane Latham 47 left Tromsø as one of many rescue missions to recover the crew of the wrecked dirigible “Italia”. The Latham expedition sent their last radio signals a little later the same day, but then there was silence. Later an improvised raft was found made from one of the Latham 47 ‘s pontoons, and it is believed that the whole crew perished.

Two years ago, marking eighty years since the Latham 47 disappeared, Hornorkesteret recorded and released a song in Amundsens memory featuring norwegian polar hero Fridtjof Nansen on vocals, taken from a recording of his memorial speech for Amundsen. Together with other Amundsen-related tracks and sober and fitting cover graphics, this MP3 single can be downloaded from the Panot archive of curious musics – scroll to the bottom to find the “Elegi for Roald Amundsen” MP3 single. The files are kindly hosted by TEKS, Trondheim Elektroniske KunstSenter.

Hornorkesteret, The Norwegian Polar Orchestra has, since 1999, played music on instruments made from reindeer antlers and other antlers, as well as drums, bones, flutes, ice, rocks and fire. Hornorkesterets compositional strategy, consisting of both improvisation and set frameworks creates a unique and organic soundscape, and together with our conceptual and visual focus on norwegian polar history, the group has become an exciting and challenging experience. We have fans from all walks of life, construction workers, fishermen, professors, connoisseurs of contemporary music, scientists, rockers and  even jazz musicians have praised Hornorkesterets “call of the wild” and the moods the group manages to convey with their primitive antler instruments.

Hornorkesteret home page
Hornorkesteret on MySpace
Join the Hornorkesteret Fanclub on Facebook

“Elegi for Roald Amundsen” is a grandiose, bordering on pompous, piece with Fridtjof Nansen himself on vocal – praising Amundsen as “one of those silent men who DOES things”. The piece drones on behind Nansens dramatic speech in a minor key and ends with a “solo pathetique” played on the soprano antler Høyang Resonator.

Primus in Antarctica – passages from Roland Huntfords “Scott and Amundsen”

27-01-10 11:14 AM – Post#142031

Scott and Amundsen by Roland Huntford
Hodder & Stoughton 1979

Also published in 1985 and thereafter under the name “The Last Place on Earth” after the title of the series produced for Central TV. Currently available in the original title in soft cover via Amazon.co.uk:

p 307

There was on board a seaman called Ludvig Hansen, who had been selected for his skill as a tinsmith. A fortnight out of Funchal, he started making paraffin tanks for the sledging journeys.

On the North-West Passage, Amundsen had observed that paraffin has a capacity to “creep”. Tins left in depots were inexplicably depleted after a few weeks, something to do with the behaviour of petroleum products at low temperatures. Then it had merely been an annoyance, but in the sterile fastnesses of the south, it might be a matter of life and death. Thus warned, Amundsen decided to have tanks specially made up from galvanised iron sheet. To make them absolutely tight, all seams were to be brazed, and the contents eventually sealed in by soldering the spout. Hansen made ten tanks in all, holding fifteen litres each.

Amundsen refused to entrust his work to a commercial enterprise. He could only trust the workmanship, if it was in the hands of someone spurred on by the knowledge that on his skill and conscientiousness depended the lives of his companions. The faith in detail; the knowledge that every little item of equipment can be trusted absolutely, is an essential part of the psychological armour in a hostile environment. Doubt is a dangerous travelling companion.

On the heaving deck, Nodtvedt, the second engineer, a skilled blacksmith, set up his forge and, off watch, produced countless gadgets, like patent shackles for the dog harnesses.
There was a reason for this uncharacteristic flurry. For his original Polar drift, Amundsen intended having much of his sledging equipment made on board during the long winters in the ice. He could not alter this without giving himself away. Instead of pleasant immobility in the pack, his craftsmen now had to work on a ship that everlastingly lurched and rolled in the ocean swell. But at least the voyage was now filled with useful work, creating a mood of urgency and purpose from the start.

P 352

Amundsen had viewed the way Scott and Shackleton marked their depots as verging on criminal negligence. That, too, he pro¬posed to avoid. The problem was an awkward and vital one in a featureless desert. The method he adopted was a line of black pennants on short sticks running east-west across the course. Twenty were laid out half a mile apart; ten on each side of the depot, making a transverse marking often miles in all. This was well within any conceivable instrumental error, so that even in thick weather, the chances of missing a pennant were small. Each pennant was numbered, giving the distance and bearing of the depot.

Onwards from the 80th parallel the temperature dropped to 30-40 degrees (C.) of frost. The difficulty, as in most skiing, was not freezing, but sweating. Running with the dogs, they were kept all too warm. In deep cold, sweat condenses in its passage through the clothing, forming a deposit of rime, which then melts with horrible discomfort. Amundsen had to sit up late, drying his Netsilik reindeer fur kamikks over the Primus stove. But there are no complaints of feeling cold, which suggests that food (especially the supply of Vitamin C) was in order.

On March 3rd, they reached the 81st parallel, or to be precise, 81° 1′. There they put up the next depot, containing half a ton of dog pemmican. Hassel, Bjaaland and Stubberud then turned home. Amundsen, Prestrud, Helmer Hanssen, Wisting and Johansen continued south to try to get to 83°.

Until 81°, the going had been reasonable. The animals were tired and hungry, but willing. The only casualty was Odin, one of Amundsen’s dogs, chafed by an ill-fitting harness. He was put on a sledge and sent home tale. Johansen’s diary for March 6th sums it up: with the returning party.

P 383

There, in a snow cave, with a few boards laid on a snow shelf for a workbench, Bjaaland turned out his little masterpieces of the ski and sledge-maker’s art. The wood he used was hickory; tough, pliable, well seasoned; the same hickory that Amundsen had so prudently bought in Pensacola a decade before* With primus stoves and tin plate from old paraffin tins, Bjaaland made the steaming chamber to bend the runners. In another workshop, Wisting and Helmer Hanssen assembled the sledges with rawhide lashings. This is a little craft in itself; upon it depends the elasticity of the sledge, and hence the ease of running. Helmer Hanssen, who had driven sledges for thousands of miles had the particular touch for this work; he knew how a sledge ought to behave.

The old Fram sledges were adapted to difficult ice, Bjaaland’s for speed on level snow. The former were intended for the glaciers leading to the Polar plateau. Once that climb was over and mobility was at a premium, they would be depoted, and Bjaaland’s light¬weight models would continue. These weighed twenty-four kilos to the renovated Fram models’ thirty-five, and Hagen’s seventy-five. Bjaaland also prepared two pairs of skis for each man, one for running, and one in reserve, to be stowed on the sledges. The work was finished by July 20th.

In deep cold, Amundsen wrote with his wry humour, “if one is not properly shod, one can soon be without feet, and then, you see, it’s too late to shoe yourself properly”.
For the third time the ski boots, having still proved too small, were eviscerated and enlarged with a wedge in the toecap – each man his own cobbler – emerging big enough for two Eskimo reindeer fur socks, plenty of sennegrass, a thick woollen sock with space to move the feet inside, essential to avoid freezing. The original stiff canvas uppers were now replaced with thinner material. After almost two years, the original concept appeared finally to have been realised, and a boot emerged that was rigid enough to control the skis and be used with crampons, but flexible enough not to impede the raising of the heel or (it was hoped) to constrict the circulation.

Because of all the work, recreation was necessarily limited. Prestrud gave an optional English course to a few of the men, teaching in the kitchen to avoid disturbing the others. Bjaaland started making a violin, but found that he did not have enough free time to finish it in the course of the winter. In the end, he took it back to Norway, where it was finished by a professional craftsman, and turned out to be a very good instrument.

For the rest, there was a little reading – mostly Polar literature, of which a small but comprehensive library had been brought – some desultory card playing and, craze of the early winter, darts. This game was new to most of them; a present from Malfred, Gustav Amundsen’s wife. Amundsen organised a competition, presenting a pocket chronometer as prize.

To prevent ennui, Amundsen broke the weekly routine with little occasions to look forward to. On weekdays, there was no drinking with meals, but every Saturday there was hot brandy toddy, every Sunday, holiday and birthday, aquavit for dinner. The idea was partly to nip quarrels in the bud: among Scandinavians there is a ritual significance in drinking spirits. The skdl is a pledge of friend¬ship.

Saturday was sauna night. That, too, was a kind of ritual; a ceremonial cleansing of body and spirit. A small sauna had been rigged up in an igloo, heat and steam provided by two Primus stoves under a metal tray. A naked sprint through an icy communication tunnel in the Barrier to the hut did duty for the obligatory rolling in the snow.

In many ways, circumstances favoured Amundsen in his concern for morale. Although most of his men lived in towns, they were still Northern country-dwellers under the imperfectly urbanised surface; men of simple tastes, adapted to isolated habitation and, indeed, without being recluses seeking isolation as relaxation and uplift. In their separate workshops under the snow, they were alone for much of the day, so that by evening they were positively glad to see the old, familiar faces. And the dogs were always there as a diversion, as they banished monotony on the march.

Each man had fourteen or fifteen dogs to tend and feed- seal meat (and blubber) and stockfish on alternate days. By midwinter they were fed up with stockfish.

p 415

The party swinging southwards into the drift, slowly rising and falling as they followed the undulations of the Barrier, like a squad¬ron of warships speeding over the swell, represented the culmination of an era. The men were clad in Eskimo garments, the dogs tearing away with them over the snow were harnessed in Eskimo fashion; but the sledges, the skis, the food waiting at 80° South, the sextants and Primus stoves, tents and all the impedimenta, were the products of Western ingenuity. It was the marriage of civilisation and a primitive culture. The technique was already on the point of obsolescence. Aircraft and tractors were waiting in the wings. This was the last classic journey in the old style; and it was to end the era of terrestrial exploration that began with the explosion of the human spirit during the Renaissance.
Everything turned on the personal quality of the men riding placidly on their sledges towards the south. They were the best of their kind; embodying a formidable combination of physical and mental qualities. They were tough, resourceful, inured to cold. But, beyond that, they had been through their trial; weaknesses had been ruthlessly eliminated. They now unreservedly accepted Amundsen’s leadership, since he had shown himself in command. Once their dogs had been hitched to the sledges and fanned out in full cry, the
dismal atmosphere of Framheim was swept away by a gale of action and self-confidence. It was a small, cohesive undivided party now speeding over the snow, hurrying to the attack, this time with an indefinable sense that the gods were with them. They were soon required to put this confidence to the test.

P 436
Forty-five dogs were now left, pulling just under eighty pounds each. They scampered off, the sledges coming away easily; and hour after hour they moved in their tireless trot, tails in an upward curve, and accompanied by the nostalgic sounds of panting breath, paws pattering, the quiet creak of the sledge and the silk-like rustle of skis on powder snow.

Amundsen deliberately selected the intervals between the cairns to rest his animals every hour. Dogs need frequent rests to preserve stamina; they work best in a succession of sprints. So do their drivers, at least if they happen to have the Norwegian temperament. Amundsen had got his animals and his men working in tune.

They followed a routine devised for economy of effort. When they stopped for the day, the tent was first unloaded. Amundsen would then crawl inside, erect it with the single pole and while his companions drove in the pegs and arranged the guys outside, he got the Primus going and started supper. Getting the food was a matter of opening the small lid of a provision case like a tea canister; the sledges were left permanently lashed and loaded.* The dogs were unhitched, fed with their pound of pemmican and allowed to roam free until harnessed the next day — the best for their comfort. Bjaaland then detached the ski bindings, bringing them into the tent for the night to avoid their disappearing into the dogs’ stomachs: the Eskimo dog will devour anything. A low snow wall was thrown up to stop the dogs urinating on the fabric of the tent. In an hour, camp was made, men and animals fed.

Under Amundsen, each sledge-driver was responsible for the supplies he was carrying, keeping a precise tally in a combined provision and navigation book as each meal was served. This meticulous accounting was absent from the British expedition, with fateful results.

In their tent at night, the Norwegians were silent, not from surliness, but because it was their nature. The evening meal was eaten quietly; the roar of the Primus, the dull clink of pemmican being scooped out of the saucepan, broken only by an occasional remark.
Bjaaland was the chatterbox; as in the dark days at Framheim; he brought a touch of humour to the tent.
“It’ll be Dad himself who first sees the mountains!” he said, in his idiosyncratic way, the day after leaving 82 degrees.
“Why do you think that?” asked Amundsen, with a glint in his eye. “Because you are so ridiculously tall”.

P 450

But the sheer scale of things discouraged scouting. Even with dogs, it would have taken days to move from the mouth of one glacier to another. The contours were so broken that, from where Amundsen stood, all directions seemed equally impenetrable. He could afford to look neither to right nor left. He had no guarantee that another route existed. The only realistic alternative was forwards.
“Men are the doubtful quantities in the Antarctic”, Amundsen liked to say. The Norwegian character is not adapted to defence or holding ground; it must attack or give way. Amundsen took a risk going up the Axel Heiberg Glacier. He would have taken a bigger risk not to, because he might have demoralised his men. They were not made to linger in uncertainty. They had to ride on their momen¬tum or they were lost. They were happier carrying the ice falls by storm. And, in the event, the Axel Heiberg, with its short, concentrated strain, matched the Norwegian temperament. Amundsen had surmounted his chief obstacle in the style that became him best.
He was in no doubt to whom the credit was due. “It was a sheer marvel, . . that the dogs accomplished today,” he wrote in his diary on the evening of November 21st, at the edge of the Plateau, “17 miles, with 5,000 ft. climb. Come and say that dogs cannot be used here.”
As soon as they arrived, the dogs were put down. Each man shot his own – that had been agreed. Amundsen, having no team of his own, was excused. As usual, being cook, he was first into the tent. But
what went faster that evening than usual was to get the Primus going and pump it to high pressure. I hoped in that way to make the most noise possible and avoid hearing the many shots that soon would sound . . .
It was hard, but it had to be. We had agreed to stop at nothing to reach our goal . . . There went the first shot. I am not nervous, but I admit, that I started. Shot now followed shot – it sounded gruesome over the wastes. A faithful servant lost his life for each shot . . . The festive mood which should have reigned in the tent that evening – the first on the plateau – did not come. There was something oppressive, miserable in the air; we had grown so fond of our dogs. The place was called “The Butcher’s Shop”.37
At least Amundsen made no attempt at self-delusion, nor did he resort to sentimental cant. He faced the fact that, for his own ambitions, certain creatures had to pay the price. He could also truthfully say that, from the moment they arrived at Kristiansand from Greenland, eighteen months ago, his “faithful servants” had lived a good life. They had eaten, slept, made love and drunk to their hearts content.

P 457

The next day, December 2nd, Amundsen described how
the plateau over which we are now travelling resembles a frozen sea – a domed cupola of ice … excellent going for a skater, but unfortunately unsuitable for our dogs and ourselves. I drag myself with my sticks ahead on skis. It is not easy. The dog drivers are without skis, at the side of their sledges, ready to help the animals.

Bjaaland solemnly headed his diary that day, “The Devil’s Nameday”. Besides the assortment of other miseries, they were travelling in the teeth of a Force 7 gale, with thick snow and drift so that
we couldn’t see in front of our nose tips, and our faces were white and hard as wax candles . . . Wisting’s jaw looks like the snout of a Jersey cow. Helmer [Hanssen] has thick scabs [from frostbite] and skin as rough as a file. It was a damned hard day, the hounds slid on the ice, and stopped when the sledges hit a sastrugi, but we forced our way 13 miles against the . . . wind which burned like a flame, oh, oh what a life.46
Looking back, Amundsen chose “The Devil’s Nameday” to por¬tray a typical picture of tent life:
“It was a Saturday evening. . . Outside the Sou’Easter howled [but inside] it looks cosy enough. The innermost half is occupied by 3 sleeping bags. The respective owners have found it most conve¬nient … to go to bed . . . nearest the entrance . . . Wisting and Hanssen are still up. Hanssen is cook . . . Wisting is his sworn friend and helper . . . Hanssen appears to be a careful cook. He doesn’t like to scorch the food. The spoon goes round uninterruptedly in the contents of the saucepan . . . cups are filled with [piping hot] pemmican [which] disappears with amazing speed [and then] everyone clamours for ice cold water [which] disappears in vast quantities . . . the Primus roars gently during the whole meal, and the temperature in the tent is quite pleasant. After the meal . . . the polar travellers are observed to tidy themselves for the coming Sunday. Beards are cut short with clippers every Saturday evening . . . Lumps of ice easily form on a beard. For me, a beard on such a journey seems quite as impractical and uncomfortable as, for example, to walk with top hats on your legs.47

P 502

Reaching the depot, they loaded the contents on to the sledge, after first giving their dogs a double ration of pemmican, and eating a little chocolate themselves. Without delay, they then began the return journey which, as Bjaaland said, “went like a bomb. . . .After 10 hours on the march we were back at the camp [and] now we are rich in provisions.”
Amundsen stayed up the whole time waiting for them, restlessly prowling up and down in the snow, watching the weather anxiously, searching the distance with his telescope, unable to rest. When, at last, he saw them reappear on the crest of a frozen wave he rushed into the tent to wake Hassel and Wisting, who had prudently turned in. “They must have found the depot,” he said, unusually excited, “for neither is sitting on the sledge. They’ve got something else to carry on it.” He immediately started the Primus in order to melt snow, so that there was plenty of water ready to slake their thirst, and then to boil up the pemmican, for they would surely be ravenous. He was beaming when they arrived, and insisted on taking care of their dogs.

Bjaaland and Helmer Hanssen, he recorded, had done forty-two miles with no rest and very little food “at an average speed of 3 miles an hour! Come and say that dogs are useless in this terrain.”

Now it was about five days to the next depot, and Amundsen had ten days’ food for men and dogs, besides emergency reserves. He was, as he put it, “on the right footing” again.

He now discovered why he had been lost. Through some error of navigation, he had been one and a half points (17 degrees) off course. But that had been a blessing in disguise, since it had steered him away from land, and led him to the easy crossing of the Devil’s Glacier. With a rational explanation, Amundsen was calm again.

He now had to make for the Butcher’s Shop, and find the start of his route down the Axel Heiberg Glacier. He had an urgent desire to see around him when he did so. Since the weather now was fine, he logically made a dash while the going was good.

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