First to the Pole. Amundsen arrived at the pole on this day 100 years ago. He was out front leading the dog sledges when a shout of ‘Halt’ went up from the team, they had reached the pole. Strangely Amundsen was not jubilant but rather more reflective. He went and shook the hands of his colleagues and together they planted the Norwegian flag. Amundsen was concerned that his reaching of the pole would be disputed and so he sent men out in several directions to plant markers. Enough markers were set that Amundsen was convinced Scott would see them and not be able to argue that he had reached the pole first. The Norwegians killed some of their dogs and prepared for the journey back to their base camp. Scott was 350 miles behind.
Amundsen and his team at the South Pole / Wikimedia Commons
Scott’s Journal December 15th 1911. Scott is now 2500 feet up the glacier and the surface is improving. Evan’s is now the slowest unit ‘although Bower’s is not much faster’. Scott’s team kept up and eventually overtook the others. The runners of the sledge had been sticking to the surface making setting off extremely difficult. As they progressed this improved greatly and the starting off was much easier. As the day went on it began to snow and at one point they could not see ahead and so camped early, ‘another interrupted march, our luck is really very bad’. Scott is concerned that bad weather is coming. The Beardmore glacier sits in a valley with very steep sides and exposed areas of rock ‘which promise to be very interesting, but oh ! for fine weather, surely we have had enough of this depressing gloom’.
Commentary. Amundsen seemed concerned to secure his place in history and perhaps his doubt comes from the way he began his expedition, in secret and having everyone think he was going to the North Pole. He does appear to be subdued in his victory. Scott’s team are powering on and leading the others. While healthy competition is one think his attacks on Evan’s do seem rather unfair. Evan’s had been pulling for 5 weeks longer than Scott. The humble leader may have gone a joined Evan’s and shared the burden and struggle, I wonder what was in his mind at this time concerning the men ?