The South Pole Expedition 1910-1912.

A heavily illustrated English translation of Amundsen’s diaries from his South Pole expedition. The overwhelming impression of the first 100 pages is Amundsen’s love affair with the dogs, even when he is killing them or sacrificing them for food for the others.

p. 47, September 10 – Saturday, after noting birth of 11 pups and that all of them end up in the sea, he quotes “Fridthof’s Saga” by Esaias Tegner, Ed.: Woman is protected ashore, must not come on board, was it Freia, betray you she will.

p. 48, quite a bit on a sick dog cured by eating its own excrement.

p. 52, October 2 – Sunday: Crossing the Line dinner celebration: Gjertsen performed a dance girl and did his stuff magnificently. Yes, he looked really good in his short floral dress made from gauze and dark loose curls. And it’s no wonder that some members allowed themselves to be lured and made noticeable advances.

p. 134, meeting of Fram with Terra Nova, February 4, 1910: They were exceptionally amiable and offered to take post to Fullerton.

p. 136: Can’t understand what the Englishmen are thinking of when they say that dogs are useless here.

p. 178-79, at Framheim, April 6 – Thursday: I am reading at present, Otto Nordenskiöld’s “Antarctic”, about his two-year stay in the Antarctic regions. It is very interesting. The difference between the weather here and there is very noticeable. Storm followed storm all the time. And here we lie with such fine weather conditions, the like of which I have never seen before.

p. 181, April 14- Friday: Good Friday has been spent quietly and peacefully. Some read, others play whist. We pass the days very comfortably. I have the feeling that every man enjoys himself and that is the main thing for me. With well-being, comes health and a desire to work.

p. 186, May 2 – Tuesday: This evening Prestrud began English lessons. He has four pupils Wisting, Helmer Jørgen and Bjaaland. They hold them in the kitchen. Tomorrow he will begin teaching navigation, in which we’ll all take part.

p. 192, May 19 – Friday: We tried to read Verden Gang (Norwegian newspaper, Ed) at 12, midday, and it was better than all expectations. No effort needed for large and small print, but then I was unusually clear and fine.

p. 201, June 28 – Wednesday: The Nautical Almanac, which lay on top, was somewhat damaged. It had begun to burn on the back and stopped just where the heat had reached the post order we have need of. That was really lucky. It was a great piece of luck in fact. All our equipment which we store here could easily have been destroyed.

p. 211, July 8 – Saturday: Amundsen’s account of daily winter routines, including handiwork, literature or cards after supper. What is so striking about this central section of the book, the winter at Framheim, is Amundsen’s invariable good humor, optimism, and cheer, attitudes he claims are shared by all the crew. E.g.,

p. 213: No, we are just like small piglets, things couldn’t be better. And I can safely say that this is everyone’s opinion too. I have yet to hear an unfriendly word and I will scarcely hear it either.

p. 214-15, a couple of substantial quotes from Shackleton’s views of haulage on the barrier, contrasting it with their own. It reads as though they have a copy of South in Framheim. He is also critical of Mawson’s assessment of the barrier as a “snowfield afloat.” Here is his judgment: How often does Shackleton complain of the cold during his journey southward? I would assure him that had he been equipped with fur clothing, which was suited to its purpose, in other words to have understood how to use it, then much of the unpleasant sense of freezing would have been avoided. Another thing I could say is that had Shackleton been equipped in a practical way with dogs, fur clothes, and above all skies, when he left for his journey towards the pole, and also understood how to use this equipment, then the quest to reach the South Pole would not have existed today.

p. 216, July 15 – Saturday: Could today read the headlines in “Tidens Tegn” (Norwegian newspaper, Ed). I could read all the names of the staff on the first page without effort. The large letters were readable from an arm’s length.

p. 219, July 24 – Monday: Yesterday Bjaaland could see to read. It was one of the newer books he was trying. These have quite large print. When I tried the other day it was simply with a magazine. The text was too small to read.

p. 220, July 27 – Thursday: Could just about see enough to read “The Family Journal” (Norwegian magazine, Ed).

p. 223, August 4 – Friday: Prestrud will begin to write down the necessary tables from the Nautical [Almanac] in each man’s observation book on Wednesday. Unfortunately, due to a mistake, we have not taken the Nautical for 1912 with us. But we will have to manage without it. He will write down the tales for Sept – Oct – Nov – Dec. [1911]

p. 225, refers to Scott’s account of the “Alexandra mountains” from the Discovery account.

p. 230, toward beginning of SP journey, August 29 – Thursday: Our man has in his observation book the necessary transcripts (copies) from “Nautical Almanac”. In addition we have three copies of Pettersen’s tables with us.

[This entire section, from p. 173 to 232 (plus photo portfolio that follows), is a portrait of complete harmony among the ten men present, active work with plenty of diversion, a rather democratic and otherwise laissez faire attitude on Amundsen’s part, great affection for the dogs even when they are being killed or dispatched to the albatross. Very interesting comparison of Scott’s and Shackleton’s earlier accounts, or their later ones, not to mention Huntford’s. Also note his occasional invoking of God Almighty’s help in their venture.

Next section, September 8 to October 19, p. 281-91, deals with their first aborted (and premature) attempt to head for the South Pole.

p. 283-4 September 17 – Sunday, shows the beginning of conflict with Johanson who attacked Amundsen’s leadership and decisions. The happy idealism of the earlier parts of these diaries is suddenly gone, “a sad ending to our splendid unity.”

“The sledging expedition to the South Pole (October 20, 1911 – January 25, 1912)” covers p. 292 to 331. The tone is quite different as various problems multiply: crevasses, bare ice, occasional bad weather, dog problems, compass uncertainties, though there are moments of ebullience.]

p. 304, November 21 – Tuesday: So we succeeded in finding our way forward. We are now lying on the plateau at 10,600 ft. It has been a really strenuous day, mostly for the dogs. But they have also, 24 of our best comrades, been given the best reward: death. … It was wonderful work the dogs performed today. 17 km with a climb of 5000 ft. Come and say that dogs are useless here.

On Nov. 24 Amundsen noted the boredom of a rest day spent in sleeping bags but says nothing about what they did but lie in them.

p. 315, December 15 – Friday (actually 14th arrival at Pole).

p. 316, December 17 – Sunday, with confirmation of observations:

We are definitely the first here.

Apart from some uncomfortable weather the return trip from Polheim (SP) to Framheim was uneventful: usually clear weather, dogs generally overweight (partly from feeding on themselves), provisions plentiful, and progress better than expected.

p. 360-68: “The journey home (January 26, 1912 – June 12, 1912)”

p. 360, January 26 – Friday at Framheim: Some people appear to be indignant at our being here, a breach of “etiquette”. Are these people mad? Is the quest for the Pole exclusively given to Scott to solve? I couldn’t care less, these idiots. Nansen, as usual, with his cool clear understanding, has had to calm them down. Yes, people are certainly mad.

There are no references to books or reading after Amundsen and his crew departed for the South Pole.