Roald Amundsen in the Alaskan Arctic

Amundsen in the Arctic

Roald Amundsen (Photo courtesy of the Brabant Collection)

In 1918 Roald Amundsen began what became a seven–year attempt to make a crossing of Arctic Eurasia, from the Kara Sea to the Bering Strait. The attempt was unsuccessful, and the explorer spent much time in Nome, planning and refitting his ship, Maud, which had been taken round to Seattle, and then to Nome. He gave up the Northeast Passage idea, and decided to fly across the North Pole. This, too, was a failure.But Amundsen was nothing if not committed. In 1925 he led two flying boats, one piloted by the American Lincoln Ellsworth, to within 150 miles of the North Pole, landing and taking off on the Arctic ice. A year later, he organized the first successful flight over the North Pole, in the dirigible Norge, piloted by the Italian Umberto Nobile. Leaving Spitsbergen on May 11, 1926, and they landed in Teller, Alaska, two days later, buffeted by strong winds and icy rain.

Amundsen then decided to fly to the North Pole. With financing from the millionaire explorer Lincoln Ellsworth, they had many unsuccessful attempts. Richard Evelyn Byrd eventually reached the North Pole by plane in May, 1926. When Byrd returned Spitsbergen, Norway, Amundsen and Byrd met. Two days later, May 11, 1926, Amundsen left for the North Pole in a dirigible (blimp) designed and flown by the Italian explorer, pilot and engineer Umberto Nobile. Amundsen and Nobile reached the North Pole on May 11. Although they had some weather and mechanical troubles, they eventually returned to Point Barrow, Alaska, on May 14.

Amundsen had this photograph presented to Angus Brabant, the Hudson’s Bay Company Fur Commissioner via ‘H.F.’ – who annotated it on the back "Captain R. Amundsen, Arctic explorer and U.S. flier who made arrangements for arrival of New York to Nome fliers. Amundsen is now frozen in about 50 miles north of East Cape and will not get out unless heavy southerly gales release him. This year the prevailing winds have been from the north keeping the ice constantly packed in on the Siberian coast leaving Herschel Island and that part of the Arctic Ocean constantly clear of ice."

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