First expedition to the South Pole: The moving story behind the tent featured in today’s Google Doodle

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First expedition to the South Pole: The moving story behind the tent featured in today’s Google Doodle

When was the first expedition to the South Pole, who completed it and who else has made the journey?

Over a century ago Roald Amundsen approached the southern-most place on Earth. With dozens of dogs and a handful of people, Amundsen finally reached the South Pole in December 1911.

Today marks the 105th anniversary of that journey, which Google is celebrating with a Doodle.

"In honour of that achievement, today's Doodle depicts the crew at the finish line, taking a moment to bask in the glory while the Antarctic wind whips outside their tent," said Google.

105th-anniversary-of-first-expedition-to-reach-the-south-pole

Who was Roald Amundsen?

Born in the summer of 1872, Amundsen was a Norwegian explorer who became the first person to reach the South Pole.

Having studied medicine in his youth, Amundsen began travelling when he was 25 when he boarded a boat from Belgium to the Antarctic. He visited the northern coast of Canada amd Alaska before deciding to breach one of the final frontiers of exploration.

He initially had plans to be the first person to travel to the North Pole, but Robert Peary beat him to it in April 1909. So in 1911 Amundsen determined that he would become the first person to reach the South Pole.

Roald Amundsen in Svalbard, Norway in 1925 in front of one of the Dornier Do J flying boats he took to the North Pole

Image: Roald Amundsen in Svalbard, Norway in 1925 in front of one of the Dornier Do J flying boats he took to the North Pole

How did he get to the South Pole? 

In October 1911, Amundsen departed a base camp in the Antarctic for the South Pole with a crew of four people, 52 sled dogs and four sledges. Their mission: to be the first to journey that far south and in doing so raise enough money to wipe Amundsen's large debts.

No one knew what the team was attempting, given that Amundsen had decided to let them think he was still going to go the North Pole. He was worried the media and government could hamper his chances of getting there first or tell him not to try.

Amundsen and his crew look at the Norwegian flag on the South Pole in 1911

Before setting out, Amundsen wrote: "If at that juncture I had made my intention public, it would only have given occasion for a lot of newspaper discussion, and possibly have ended in the project being stifled at its birth.

"My brother, upon whose absolute silence I could blindly rely, was the only person I let into the secret of my change of plan, and he did me many important services during the time when we alone shared the knowledge."

Eleven months after they set sail from Norway in a boat called Fram, the crew of five people and 16 dogs reached the South Pole. Just 11 of the 52 dogs made it back to the Fram in January.

Portrait of Amundsen

Image: Portrait of Amundsen

Who else has visited the South Pole?

Just over a month after Amundsen and his crew reached the South Pole, British explorer Robert Falcon Scott arrived in the spot where the Norwegian flag already stood. Having been unaware of Amundsen's rival mission, Scott and his team of four other men planted their flag in January 1912, but tragically died on their return trip of starvation and extreme cold.

The route from the ocean to the South Pole has been traversed by dozens of explorers from Amundsen to Prince Harry

Despite other attempts and a flyover, it wasn't until October 1956 that an expedition reached the South Pole again. In that year, the US Navy landed at the South Pole and constructed the US Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station.

Since then, there has been a continued human presence of support and research staff. But only a handful of people have trekked to the station on foot, including Edmund Hillary and Vivian Fuchs in 1958. The first group of women made it to the South Pole in 1969.

A further support base was built in 1987, making it easier for non-government visitors to trek to the southern-most point. The fastest journey from the ocean to the Pole was made by Christian Eide, a Norwegian adventurer, in 2011 and took just 24 days - as opposed to Amundsen's three months.

 

In 2013 Prince Harry and the Walking With the Wounded team reached the South Pole after more than three weeks of pulling sleds across the frozen desert.

Amundsen's disappearance

After his South Pole success, Amundsen went on to traverse the Arctic's icy waters to reach the North Pole in 1925. But then on a trip flying over the region on a rescue mission in 1928, Amsundsen's plane is believed to have crashed in the fog, killing him and his five crew members. The bodies were never located, despite the Norwegian Government's efforts.

Amundsen in 1909

Travelling namesake

Despite his untimely death, Amundsen has gone on to inspire the names of oceans, craters on the Moon, and even famous literary characters. The most prominent things names after the explorer include:

Amundsen Sea off the coast of Antarctica

Amundsen Glacier, Amundsen Bay and Mount Amundsen in Antarctica

Amundsen Gulf in the Arctic Ocean near Canada

Large crater on the moon near its southern pole

Author Roald Dahl

Source: Telegraph

Gallery:

Amundsen and his crew look at the South Pole in 1911

Amundsen and his crew look at the South Pole in 1911

Amundsen and his crew look at the South Pole in 1911

Amundsen and his crew look at the South Pole in 1911