South with the Sun: Roald Amundsen, His Polar Explorations, and the Quest for Discovery
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Roald Amundsen, “the last of the Vikings,” left his mark on the Heroic Era as one of the most successful polar explorers ever.
A powerfully built man more than six feet tall, Amundsen’s career of adventure began at the age of fifteen (he was born in Norway in 1872 to a family of merchant sea captains and rich ship owners); twenty-five years later he was the first man to reach both the North and South Poles.
Lynne Cox, adventurer and swimmer, author of Swimming to Antarctica (“gripping” —Sports Illustrated) and Grayson (“wondrous, and unforgettable” —Carl Hiaasen), gives us in South with the Sun a full-scale account of the explorer’s life and expeditions.
We see Amundsen, in 1903-06, the first to travel the Northwest Passage between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, in his small ship Gjøa, a seventy-foot refitted former herring boat powered by sails and a thirteen-horsepower engine, making his way through the entire length of the treacherous ice bound route, between the northern Canadian mainland and Canada’s Arctic islands, from Greenland across Baffin Bay, between the Canadian islands, across the top of Alaska into the Bering Strait. The dangerous journey took three years to complete, as Amundsen, his crew, and six sled dogs waited while the frozen sea around them thawed sufficiently to allow for navigation.
We see him journey toward the North Pole in Fridtjof Nansen’s famous Fram, until word reached his expedition party of Robert Peary’s successful arrival at the North Pole. Amundsen then set out on a secret expedition to the Antarctic, and we follow him through his heroic capture of the South Pole.
Cox makes clear why Amundsen succeeded in his quests where other adventurer-explorers failed, and how his methodical preparation and willingness to take calculated risks revealed both the spirit of the man and the way to complete one triumphant journey after another.
Crucial to Amundsen’s success in reaching the South Pole was his use of carefully selected sled dogs. Amundsen’s canine crew members—he called them “our children”—had been superbly equipped by centuries of natural selection for survival in the Arctic. “The dogs,” he wrote, “are the most important thing for us. The whole outcome of the expedition depends on them.” On December 14, 1911, Roald Amundsen and four others, 102 days and more than 1,880 miles later, stood at the South Pole, a full month before Robert Scott.
Lynne Cox describes reading about Amundsen as a young girl and how because of his exploits was inspired to follow her dreams. We see how she unwittingly set out in Amundsen’s path, swimming in open waters off Antarctica, then Greenland (always without a wetsuit), first as a challenge to her own abilities and then later as a way to understand Amundsen’s life and the lessons learned from his vision, imagination, and daring.
South with the Sun—inspiring, wondrous, and true—is a bold adventure story of bold ambitious dreams.
Bob and Bill leaning so far over the pontoon they were just two arm lengths above my head. They were suddenly all pointing toward shore and directing me where to land. Konrad pointed. “See the ledge? That’s it!” I nodded. I saw it. I swam for it. But as I got closer, I realized the ledge had grown in height; it was about three feet above my head. I couldn’t get out there. I was too tired. I didn’t have the strength to reach that high up and press myself out of the water. So I just kept
splendor; the English colors flying at the masthead and the two fine vessels full of bustle.… Certainly these brave men had succeeded in discovering much new land, but only to see their expectations of accomplishment of the North West Passage that way brought to nought by impenetrable masses of ice. (The North-west Passage, vol. 1, 47–48) John Franklin and his crew of 129 men succumbed to starvation; some of the men resorted to cannibalism. Their ships were crushed by the ice and lost to the
turned my head to breathe on my right side, I saw the elevated pipeline. At the end of the causeway was a seawater treatment plant, which processed seawater and pumped it back into the oil field. And as I swam, I pulled my hands through shoals of small plum-colored jellyfish. They didn’t sting, but when I touched them they trembled, and so did I. When I’d reached the thirty-minute mark, Bob called out to me and waved. I swam another minute. I still felt very strong, but the water was colder than
transport the extra food to the South Pole and back, and so they would have access to the food on the return journey to Framheim. The nine men who made up the land party were divided into groups. Kristian Pestrud, Hjalmar Johansen, and Jørgen Stubberud would explore King Edward VII Land. Amundsen and Helmer J. Hanssen, Sverre H. Hassel, Oscar Wisting, and Olav Bjaaland and their dog teams would set out for the South Pole. Adolf Lindstrom would maintain Framheim. On February 10, 1911, they began
mementos—a silver dollar mounted beautifully in a large frame. Arthur explained that it had been handed down through his family. His grandfather had been a great supporter and fan of Admiral Byrd, and the Times had extensively covered Byrd’s missions. His grandfather gave the coin to Byrd first when he flew to the North Pole in 1926. The second time Byrd carried the silver dollar with him was on his flight across the Atlantic. The third time Byrd carried it on the first flight to the South Pole.