Roald Amundsen Archives - Eva Varga

May 8, 2015

One of the benefits of homeschooling is the flexibility of our schedule. When Patrick has business meetings out of town, we are often able to accompany him. This works not only to his benefit – he has company on the long drive, we often share in the task of driving so the other can catch up on work, and he can take advantage of the carpool lane – but to ours.

While he is engaged at his conference, we hit the road to explore the city or surrounding area. This is just what brought us to San Francisco earlier this week.

We assumed that we would be staying in downtown or the financial district as we had in the past. Come to discover, this conference took place near the airport in Millbrae. Not exactly convenient for walking. Though the proximity to the BART would have been ideal – our plans for the day provided only a small window of time and we wanted to squeeze in as much as possible.

A las, I made the decision to drive back into SF proper myself and take our chances with parking. Our first destination was Golden Gate Park. In all our previous visits to the city, we had not previously explored this gem. My goal was to locate the Roald Amundsen or Gjoa Monument as well as two historic windmills.

On Wind & Sail: Letterboxing in San Francisco @WellTraveledFamily.netIn October 1906, Roald Amundsen and his crew arrived in San Francisco aboard the 69-foot Gjoa. Previously a herring boat from Tronso, Norway, she had been retrofitted for Amundsen’s quest to discover the famed Northwest Passage. The Gjoa took the small crew up and over Canada, east to west, finally arriving near Herschel Island, in arctic Canada.

To get word back to the outside world of his success, Amundsen left his men behind in the icebound ship and skied some 500 miles into Eagle, Alaska, where he telegraphed the good news home. As he and his crew arrived in San Francisco a few months later, they were hailed as heroes.

This epic quest was not Amundsen’s only feat, however. He led the Antarctic expedition (1910–12) to become the first to reach the South Pole in December 1911, an epic race against Robert Falcon Scott. In 1926, he was the first expedition leader to be recognized without dispute as having reached the North Pole.

We had visited the Gjoa ship at the Maritime Museum in Oslo. It was exciting to experience this full circle. Not far from the Norwegian granite stele is located a short distance from two windmills.
On Wind & Sail: Letterboxing in San Francisco @WellTraveledFamily.netBuilt between 1902 and 1908, the two historic windmills that overlook Ocean Beach at the far west end of Golden Gate Park were originally designed to provide water for the fledgling park at the beginning of the last century.

Fresh water was essential to transform the sand dunes of the Sunset district into the green that it is today.  The ground water inland was insufficient, so the coastal winds were harnessed to pump deep water closer to the ocean shore.  The windmills were in use only until 1913, when they were replaced by more efficient electric pumps.

The North windmill, known as the Dutch Windmill, was the first, built in 1902 to fill the artificial ponds within the boundaries of Golden Gate Park. The South windmill, known as the Murphy Windmill, was the largest of its kind in the world, with gigantic 114 foot sails, each cut from a single log. These sails turned clockwise, unlike traditional Dutch windmills which turn counter-clockwise.

While in Golden Gate Park, we also enjoyed one of our most favorite pastimes, Letterboxing – the ultimate scavenger hunt. Hunting letterboxes in San Francisco is always enjoyable – the boxes tend to be well maintained and the stamps are amazing! Often, intricately carved or multiple stamps that “stack” within one another.

We hunted three boxes (Aphrodite, Artemis, and Breathe) and were delighted to find all three with ease. My girl has become quite adept at locating the boxes – often without the complete set of clues .. a real sleuth.

We also picked up a hitch-hiking stamp and hope to be planting it in Ashland next week. 🙂

To learn more about letterboxing, visit AtlasQuest.


July 6, 20142

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.


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.