Roald Engelbregt Gravning Amundsen was a Norwegian explorer who led an Antarctic expedition to the treacherous area where no man had previously set foot. Among the greatest polar explorers, he was the first to cross the Arctic Northwest Passage. Born into a family of Norwegian shipowners and captains, he grew up travelling. Inspired by the voyages of Fridtjof Nansen and Sir John Franklin, he grew up dreaming of exploring the world’s vast wildernesses and distant terrains. His mother forced him to study medicine and become a doctor as a child, so he couldn’t pursue his goals. After the loss of his mother, he left medicine to follow his childhood passion of travel. He slept with his windows open throughout the cold Norwegian winters to prepare for his future travels. His perseverance paid off, and he soon entered the ranks of the greatest explorers who journeyed into the world’s icy extremes.
Early Childhood of Roald Amundsen
In Borge, Norway, on July 16, 1872, he was the fourth son of Jens Amundsen and Hanna Sahlqvist. Several family members were shipowners and captains.
Given his family history, Roald’s early passion in travel and exploration was not surprising. But his mother wanted him to be a doctor, not a seaman.
His mother’s wishes encouraged him to enroll in college but he dropped out following her death.
Career of Roald Amundsen
Captain Sir John Franklin’s lost 1845 voyage and explorer Fridtjof Nansen’s 1888 Greenland journey influenced him. In 1899, he joined the Belgian Antarctic Mission led by Adrien de Gerlache, the first winter expedition to Antarctica.
In 1903, he led the first expedition to safely cross Canada’s Northwest Passage between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The mission took three years and two winters on King William Island in Nunavut’s harbor.
During this time, he learnt vital survival techniques from the local Inuit, such as using sled dogs to haul supplies and using animal skins to keep warm.
Amundsen planned to sail the Fram, Fridtjof Nansen’s old ship, to the North Pole and investigate the Arctic Basin. The news that American explorer Robert E. Peary had reached the North Pole in April 1909 hampered this strategy. So he covertly took his expedition to the South Pole.
On October 19, 1911, he set out with four companions, 52 dogs, and four sledges. His team reached the Polar Plateau on November 21 and the South Pole on December 14, 1911.
Before returning from the South Pole, the explorers collected scientific data. They returned on December 17 and arrived in Bay of Whales on January 25, 1912.
The expedition’s success enabled him to build a successful shipping business. In 1918, he set sail on a new ship named Maud for the Northeast Passage. Oscar Wisting and Helmer Hanssen, both members of the South Pole expedition, accompanied him.
Together with Oscar Wisting and an Italian air crew directed by aeronautical engineer Umberto Nobile, he crossed the Arctic in an airship named Norge in 1926. A two-day flight from Spitzbergen to Alaska, they left on May 11. It was the Norge’s crew who reached the North Pole first, after earlier claims by explorers like Robert Peary were challenged.
Honors & Awards
The National Geographic Society awarded him the Hubbard Medal in 1907 for discovering the Northwest Passage.
The American Geographical Society (AGS) awarded him the Charles P. Daly Medal in 1912 for “valuable or distinguished geographical services or labors.”
Personal Legacy of Roald Amundsen
Amundsen never married despite rumours of multiple relationships.
On June 18, 1928, he was part of a five-man crew searching for missing Nobile crew members whose new airship Italia had crashed coming from the North Pole. Amundsen’s plane vanished, and subsequently bits of it were found, leading to the theory that it crashed.
His crew and he were assumed dead in the crash, albeit no remains were located.
His name is associated with the Amundsen Sea, Amundsen Glacier, and Amundsen Bay in Antarctica.
Estimated Net Worth
Roald is a wealthy and well-known explorer. Roald Amundsen net worth is estimated at $1.5 Million by Wikipedia, Forbes and Business Insider.