Glasgow Digital Library Voyage of the Scotia BRUCE PEOPLE SHIP ANTARCTIC INDEX
Scotland and the Antarctic

Section 3: Scott, Shackleton and Amundsen

Roald Amundsen

image from Voyage of the Scotia

The Norwegian Roald Amundsen had been inspired as a boy by the Arctic adventures of Franklin . Although, like William S Bruce, he started medical studies, he abandoned these to serve as a seaman in Arctic waters.

In 1897 he was first mate on board Belgica, the first ship to winter in the Antarctic. In 1899 he obtained his master's certificate. He was determined to be an Arctic explorer.

In 1903 he left Norway just in time to avoid his creditors - he was deeply in debt. He had acquired an old 50-ton fishing smack and set sail in the tracks of Franklin. Amundsen's ship, Gja, was fitted with a 13 horsepower petrol engine. Gja was to overwinter in the Arctic and in 1905 became the first vessel to travel through the Northwest Passage. Many had died over the previous 50 years trying to find the passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

When Amundsen returned to Norway, two years of lecturing were required to pay off all his debts. Amundsen's great dream was still to head for the North Pole. He was now a famous man and the Norwegian government lent him Nansen's ship Fram to pursue his dream. Like Nansen, Amundsen hoped to drift as near as possible in the ice then make a sledge journey with dogs to the pole. Before departing, however, he found out that Peary had reached the North Pole in 1909. Amundsen decided to head south instead.

The world's press and the crew of Fram still believed the ship was due to sail to the Arctic. Amundsen had agreed to do an oceanographic survey around the south of Britain and west of Ireland before heading out on his journey of exploration.

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Glasgow Digital Library Voyage of the Scotia BRUCE PEOPLE SHIP ANTARCTIC INDEX