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I am a New York-based writer, travel lover, and author of The Drive North and Destination Paranormal. I have several other books in the works, including fiction.

The South Pole

There was perhaps no greater achievement in exploration and adventure at the time of Norwegian Captain Roald Amundsen’s expedition to the South Pole shortly before Christmas in December, 1911. And more than 100 years later, Roald Amundsen leading a trip to the South Pole is still thought of as an incredible attainment and the crowing glory during the Golden Age of Exploration. Other trips to Antarctica may be more well remembered – like Ernest Shackleton and his ill-fated trip on the Endurance – but no other explorer accomplished what Amundsen and his team did before them, and few have after. The journey documented in The South Pole: An Account of the Norwegian Antarctic Expedition in the Fram, 1910-1912, is of Amundsen’s team and that of the Fram, their ship, which carried them to and from the south.

I had ordered Roald Amundsen’s The South Pole online, so I was not prepared for its size when it arrived. Minus the appendices, all of the photos, and the various maps, the book is still approximately 750 pages. And when it is all said and bound, it is two and a half inches thick; quite a handful when considering the shorter and thinner books today. This impressed me, since before even cracking open the book I believed that Amundsen was not only an adventurer, but also a scholar with an eye for detail. And that’s what he did in his book, document every last detail of the trip, all of his thoughts, and, most importantly to being a good and true leader, give credit to all of those who not only made the journey with him to the pole, but who had a hand in making it possible from start to finish.

I was really captivated by Roald Amundsen’s words in The South Pole. His story, even poorly written, is a magnificent one. But Amundsen is an excellent writer, so the story is that much more interesting – if an expedition to the South Pole can be made any more amazing. Reading about the work put into the journey, learning about the other men, and understanding the pains they went through to reach their goal – all with barely a complaint from the author – is amazing even by today’s standards, let alone those in the context of 100 years ago. I particularly liked the additions Amundsen included by Lieutenants K. Prestrud – who lead a separate journey from their camp, Framheim – and Thorvold Nilsen – the captain of the Fram while Amundsen was on land who was also responsible for repairs and other scientific observations, as was Prestrud, on his journey. Their stories helped offer depth to the overall account of the expedition and demonstrate how massive of an undertaking such an expedition really is.

The South Pole by Roald Amundsen is a fantastic story from start to finish covering nearly 1,900 miles on land, more than 54,000 nautical miles, and  two and a half times around the globe. It amazes on so many levels – like how a man rescued after falling into a massive crevasse is no big thing, or sailing through a hurricane is only a moderate difficulty at best – but there are most certainly shortcomings in the story. For instance, Amundsen shifts perspective in the first half of his account. Instead of writing from the first person perspective he does for the rest of the story, he switches to the perspective of an imaginary visitor who takes a tour of their base on the continent, what they name Framheim. It is a harsh switch and quite uninteresting written from that perspective. Had Amundsen give his own tour to the reader I believe it would have been just as wonderful as the rest of the story. As it is, the chapter is confusing and burdensome. The level of disconnectedness at times, as in the lack of emotion displayed or written about, is also disappointing; only upon reaching his prize, the South Pole, does Amundsen truly seem to let his feelings fly, and then only briefly. I wish he would have opened up more in the story.

In the documented history of the world there are few expeditions that are more noteworthy than that of Roald Amundsen and his team in The South Pole. It is an impressive achievement, both the journey to the pole and the story Amundsen writes in his book. Throughout the story I was impressed by not just his actions, his ability to lead, and the journey, but also his ability to tell a thoughtful, engaging, and entertaining story. Amundsen’s The South Pole is an impressive account of his team’s journey to the pole and one I would recommend anyone read, particularly at this time around the anniversary; it is one of the most magnificent accounts I have yet to read, and not just about Antarctica.

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  1. Travel Books to Read if You’re Not Traveling | Jason's Travels - June 3, 2014

    […] deaths, becoming the second to the pole by only a matter of a few days. That race is documented in The South Pole by Roald Amundsen, the Norwegian who made it to the South Pole […]

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