Southward Bound

He was the first explorer to reach the South Pole, and Hurtigruten Expeditions’ green pioneer, MS Roald Amundsen, takes his name.

CARRIE HUTCHINSON

5 min read

Who was Roald Amundsen?

When it comes to polar explorers, Roald Amundsen was one of the heroes who first explored to the unknown continent known as Antarctica. Before he headed to the earth’s most southern point, however, the Norwegian adventurer had already left his mark. He’d joined a Belgian expedition to the Antarctic – the first to winter in the region – that had spent more than a year trapped in pack ice before heading home to Antwerp. He’d also led the first expedition to successfully traverse the Northwest Passage. Three years after completing that in 1906, he began planning a South Pole expedition that departed Norway a year later, in June 1910.

Roald Amundsen in fur skins.

Roald Amundsen in fur skins.

Amundsen Expedition at the South Pole.

Amundsen Expedition at the South Pole.

Great southern voyage

In the early 1900s there was something of a race on. Shackleton had almost made it, getting to within 180 kilometres of the South Pole. When Amundsen set sail on the Fram on what he’d told others would be a trip to the North Pole, Robert Scott was on his way to the opposite end of the world.

Unfortunately, two American explorers claimed to have reached the North Pole, so Amundsen changed his plans in secret, only telling his crew of their true destination after they left Madeira. He also sent a telegram to Scott, who’d already left Cardiff, telling him of his plans to cross Antarctica to reach the South Pole.

Having made a base called Framheim in the Bay of Whales, Amundsen’s party set out on the first of three depot-laying journeys in February 1911. They left supplies, including seal meat and paraffin oil, before wintering back at base where they made improvements to the sledges and other equipment.

MS Roald Amundsen, Antarctica. Photo: Dan Avila

When spring finally arrived, Amundsen set off with five men, four sledges and 52 dogs. That was on 19 October 1911, and the team made its way up a steep glacier over the Transantarctic Mountains. On 8 December they passed the point Shackleton had reached and finally made the vicinity of the South Pole the next day. The men spent the following three days ensuring they had actually hit the right spot.

They returned to Framheim in January, having taken 99 days to get to the pole and back, covering 3,440 kilometres.

Breaking the ice 70 degrees south of the Earth's equatorial plane in the Antarctic. Photo: Werner Kruse

Naming ceremony for MS Roald Amundsen. Photo: Andrea Klaussner

Naming ceremony for MS Roald Amundsen. Photo: Andrea Klaussner

To honour the first man to reach the South Pole, Hurtigruten Expeditions launched the MS Roald Amundsen in November 2019. Perhaps more important than its name, however, is its combination of sustainability and luxury. The Amundsen is the world’s first hybrid cruise ship. It runs on low sulphur diesel fuel supported by battery packs that together cut emissions by 20 per cent, leading towards a more sustainable way of exploring.

When sailing to Antarctica, the MS Roald Amundsen carries 500 passengers, all of whom will be as enthralled by the sleek Scandinavian design and amenities – three restaurants, two-level observation deck, pool, hot tubs and the Amundsen Science Center – as by the spectacular landscape of Antarctica. And with the world’s finest expedition leaders conducting landings on this faraway land, passengers will have the best Antarctica experience imaginable.

Expedition Suite on board MS Roald Amundsen. Photo: Agurtxane Concellon

Expedition Suite on board MS Roald Amundsen. Photo: Agurtxane Concellon

Science Center on board MS Roald Amundsen. Photo: Agurtxane Concellon

Science Center on board MS Roald Amundsen. Photo: Agurtxane Concellon

Dining area on board MS Roald Amundsen. Photo: Agurtxane Concellon

Dining area on board MS Roald Amundsen. Photo: Agurtxane Concellon