New chapter in the Amundsen story

The ACE CRC recently hosted a visit by distinguished Norwegian polar scientist, administrator and diplomat Dr Olav Orheim.  Dr Orheim was visiting the CRC to work with Jo Jacka, Barry Giles and Ian Allison on three decades of iceberg sighting data. Dr Orheim (pictured at the ACE Symposium dinner) chairs a number of Norwegian entities, among them the Fram Museum, in Oslo, which is named after, and houses, the polarship on which Roald Amundsen sailed to Antarctica in 1911. Dr Orheim’s visit to the ACE CRC coincided with the centenary of Amundsen’s announcement from Hobart that he had reached the South Pole. Amundsen made the announcement on March 7, 1912 after reaching the pole in December 1911. This was an event of great global interest and Amundsen was the first to achieve it. While in Hobart, Dr Orheim delivered a public lecture on Amundsen at the University of Tasmania and was guest speaker at the ACE CRC Symposium dinner.  He explained that, a century after Amundsen's conquest, new information is coming to light about his epic journey. As part of Norway’s 2011 centenary celebrations of the South Pole conquest, 30 Fram Museum volunteers transcribed the diaries of 14 expeditioners who sailed with Amundsen on that trip. “One hundred years later we are finding out new information about that expedition,” Dr Orheim said. “There are some diaries that had been marked as private, but with the distance in time, family members have said it is now okay for them to be transcribed and published.” The relationship between Amundsen and the team member with the most seniority, Frederik Johansen, was known to be turbulent. The diaries, written in dim light and often in handwriting that was difficult to decipher, revealed new twists and turns in the partnership. The diaries also told of Amundsen’s strict control over the release of the news of his South Pole conquest. In the great age of Antarctic exploration, explorers were the equivalent of modern-day movie stars. Their stories were worth big money in book and newspaper deals. Amundsen was keenly aware of this and had been stung by the way news had leaked out when he had led the first party to traverse the Northwest Passage. Disguised in Hobart as a humble seaman, he sent a coded telegram with the news to his brother in Norway so that it could be released first in Europe under newspaper deals he had arranged before he left. This meant that despite the fact that Amundsen was in Hobart, local journalists learned about the event through telegrammed information from the other side of the world. Once they saw these reports the Hobart press descended on Amundsen’s hotel room, banging on his door in the clamour for more information and interviews. The diaries have been published in seven books in Norwegian and will soon be available in English.

Authorised by the CEO of the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre October 2019.

The ACE CRC was established and supported under the Australian Government’s Cooperative Research Centres Program.

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