Science Milestones: Antarctic Explorer Roald Amundsen

In 1911 two men began ambitious expeditions to the South Pole. Despite facing similar conditions during their 1,400 mile journeys, Roald Amundsen secured victory for his team while Robert Falcon Scott and his team suffered defeat and un-timely death.
Antarctic ExplorerBoth men and their teams contended with hostile conditions: freezing temperatures, gale force winds, fierce terrain and no safety nets. Both teams were thousands of miles from help, and without any access to communication. The conditions may have been similar; the two teams’ outcomes were not.

Victory awaits him who has everything in order – luck people call it. Defeat is certain for him who has neglected to take the necessary precautions in time; this is called bad luck. ~ Roald Amundsen

The Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration

In the early 20th century, five men made history by traveling to and exploring both the North and South Poles.  Their exploits were dangerous and exciting, and the whole world followed their adventures through newspaper accounts and magazine articles.  Their names are synonymous with determination and bravery: Admiral Robert Peary, Matthew Henson, Dr. Frederic Cook, Robert Scott, and Roald Amundsen.

Stories of their exploits inspired a generation of young people to pursue their dreams – including Thor Heyerdahl and Jacques Cousteau. The exploration of the south pole still inspires controversy today. Even supporters of Scott admit that Amundsen bested him at polar travel. Scott, however, had put together a very, very good team of scientists.  In the book, An Empire of Ice, the author outlines the expedition’s scientific achievements, from studying the movement of glaciers to mapping the continent’s snow-free dry valleys, and collecting Emperor penguins’ eggs.

Biography

Roald Amundsen

Born on the 16th of July 1872, Roald Engelbregt Gravning Amundsen was a renowned Norwegian explorer of polar regions. He led the Antarctic expedition (1910–12) to become the first to reach the South Pole in December 1911. In 1926, he was the first expedition leader to be recognized without dispute as having reached the North Pole.

He is also known as the first to traverse the Northwest Passage (1903–06).  He was one of the key expedition leaders during the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration along with Douglas Mawson, Robert Falcon Scott, and Ernest Shackleton. He disappeared in June 1928 while taking part in a rescue mission.

Born to a shipbuilder and captain, Jens Amundsen; he grew up with his three brothers. His mother wanted him to avoid the trade and become a doctor.  A promise he kept until her passing when he was 21 years of age.

Notable trivia, writer Roald Dahl was named after Amundsen.

Roald became a crewmember on various ships traveling to the Arctic. In 1887 he was first mate on a ship named the Belgica, the first expedition to survive the winter on the Arctic. This experience taught him valuable lessons of survival that would help him later on. One was that fresh seal meat had vitamin C which would help in curing scurvy. Another was to use animal skins rather than wool coats to keep warm.

Bring it Home

⚓️ Watch the PBS program, Alone on the Ice

⚓️ Create an exploration timeline noting Amundsen’s accomplishments and those of his peers.

⚓️ Map his explorations on a world map.

⚓️ Visit the Fram museum online and enjoy a slide show and numerous historical accounts.

⚓️ Compare the antarctic explorations of other notable explorers and create a scrapbook that features their research findings.

⚓️ Read the biography, The Last Viking: The Life of Roald Amundsen 

⚓️ Examine the adaptive capabilities of arctic animals and the people native to these regions. What did Amundsen learn from them and how did it impact his expeditions?

⚓️ Identify items necessary for survival in cold climates and plan a survival pack for severe Antarctic weather.

⚓️ Check out the website, Ice-Bound – a resource to learn from and interact with scientists who study the polar regions, glaciers and ice sheets around the world.

Science Milestones

Visit my Science Milestones page to learn more about scientists whose discoveries and advancements have made a significant difference in our lives or who have advanced our understanding of the world around us.

The bloggers of the iHomeschool Network have teamed up to create fun and original unit studies on fascinating people who were born in July.

Scandinavia Day Seven: Viking Ships & Vigelandsparken

We got an early start and took a bus to Bygdøy a peninsula on the western side of Oslo where many of the most popular museums are located.  Armed with the 48-Hr Oslo Pass, we toured the most popular of museums in Oslo.

Viking Ship Museum

The Viking Ship Museum (Vikingskipshuset) presents great Viking ship discoveries from Gokstad, Oseberg and Tune as well as other finds from Viking tombs around the Oslo Fjord. These ships were found in three large burial mounds where they had been buried to serve as vessels for their rich owners’ final journey to the realm of the dead, Valhalla.

The Osberg ship, built around 820 AD was used as a burial ship for a powerful woman and her maid-servant in 834 AD. The ship is constructed of oak timbers and is 21.5m long and 5m wide.  The ship was fully manned with a crew of 32 men, including the helmsman and the lookout.  In a burial chamber in the ship, the dead women were laid out in a ready-made bed.  Their ship also contained a fantastic collection of burial gifts for use in the life hereafter; e.g. three elaborate sledges, a wagon, five carved animal heads, five beds and the skeletons of 12 horses.

The Gokstad ship was built around 890 AD and was used as a burial ship for a chieftain around 900 AD.  The ship is about 23m long and about 5m wide; fully equipped with 32 shields on each side, painted alternately in gold and black.  In the burial chamber lay the body of a man in his 40s.

Grave robbers had long since plundered the grave; no weapons were found among the burial gifts, but the finds included a game board with game pieces, a harness fitting of iron, lead and gilded bronze, kitchen utensils, six beds, one tent, a sledge and three small boats.  Also buried in the grave were 12 horses, 6 dogs, and a peacock.

Kon-Tiki Museum

The Kon-Tiki Museum showcases the legendary expeditions of Thor Heyerdahl (1914-2002).  Thor gained worldwide fame when he crossed the Pacific Ocean on the Kon-Tiki in 1947. He followed this up with spectacular expeditions on the reed boats Ra and Tigris.  His recreations of prehistoric voyages showed that early man had mastered sailing before the saddle and wheel were invented. His reputation as a scientist was consolidated through his archaeological excavations on the fabled, mysterious Easter Island.  Here, the munchkins and I were intrigued by the expedition journals of Thor and his wife, Liv.

Maritime & Fram Museums

We also explored the Norwegian Maritime Museum and the Fram Museum.  The Fram Museum houses the world’s most famous polar ship and about the men, like Roald Amundsen, who made these expeditions possible.

Norsk Folke Museum

Lastly, we explored the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History or Norsk Folkemuseum.  We had been most looking forward to this one as we have volunteered as living history interpreters in the past.  However, much like Skansen in Stockholm, there was only one due to the fact that it was off-season.  MeiLi became very disappointed in this .. many of the historic buildings were also closed .. and we became a little gloomy.  We thereby missed the stave church … but it likely would’ve been closed as well.  The nice thing about travel in the off-season, however, is we had the entire place to ourselves.  There were no lines … no one stepping in front of our cameras … no crowds whatsoever.

Rather than take the bus again, we boarded a small boat or water taxi and returned to mainland Oslo.  Craving fish & chips, we selected Amunsen Bryggeri & Spiseri … a local brewery and pub for dinner.  We did a little shopping … and then boarded the bus once again for Frogner Park.

Vigelandsparken

Frognerparken is a public park located in the borough of Frogner in Oslo, Norway. The park contains the world famous Vigeland Sculpture Park (Vigelandsparken) designed by Gustav Vigeland as well as various bridges, fountains and a well known picnic area, popular in the summer for sunbathing, games, and relaxation. The sculpture park was my favorite tourist attraction in Scandinavia.  I was previously unfamiliar with Vigeland’s work and I now count him among my all-time favorite.

We wandered about the park, taking many photographs and enjoying the incredible artistry of Vigeland’s work.  MeiLi also enjoyed playing an interactive iPhone game, Den Hemmelige Parken. We weren’t able to visit the museum in his honor, however, but vowed to return.

We thereby returned to our hotel and crashed … it had been a long day.