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

Section 1: Background - Arctic and Antarctic ... Arctic exploration

Amundsen's voyage 1903-06

The Norwegian Roald Amundsen had been brought up on tales of the Arctic and Antarctic. His heroes included John Franklin and John Barrow and he was determined to try and pass through the Northwest Passage.

Photograph of the Fram

In 1903 he sailed from Norway in a small fishing boat, Gja, with six companions. The ship was fitted with a 13HP Dan petrol/paraffin engine. Gja had five years' worth of supplies on board. Although the intention was to sail through the Northwest Passage, a lot of research and mapping took place. The ship passed through Lancaster Sound and south around King William Island. Gja was to spend two winters at Gjahavn at the southern end of King William Island. The young geologist Wiik spent the time studying terrestrial magnetism and proved that the magnetic pole moved. Amundsen lived with the Eskimo and learned about their techniques of travel and survival - very important for his later attempt on the South Pole.

The voyage continued in August 1905 and they were only stopped by ice off the Mackenzie River where they spent a third winter and reached the Pacific next spring. Gja is now in a museum in Oslo.

The next voyage through the Passage was not made until 1940 when the Canadian Henry Larsen of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police brought the two-masted gaff schooner St Roche through - the first crossing from west to east. This was repeated in 1944. St Roche is now in the maritime museum in Vancouver.

In 1958 the USS Nautilus, a nuclear submarine, sailed from the Pacific to the Atlantic. The ship surfaced at the North Pole and sent the historic message: 'Nautilus 90N'.

In 1969 a specially strengthened tanker, the Manhattan, made the passage from west to east. She was damaged on the passage and had to be freed by an ice breaker. This was not repeated. Today the ice is 40% thinner and a ship recently passed through in 30 days.

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