Prime Minister of Norway Jens Stoltenberg held a speech at the South Pole, Wednesday, to pay tribute to Roald Amundsen and Captain Robert Falcon Scott.
“Courage and determination”
Today marks exactly 100 years since Amundsen reached the South Pole with Olav Bjaaland, Helmer Hanssen, Sverre Hassel and Oscar Wisting.
“We are here to celebrate one of the most outstanding achievements of mankind,” said Prime Minister Stoltenberg in his speech.
“Roald Amundsen’s polar expeditions helped to form our national identity, and the qualities that enabled him and his men to reach the South Pole were precisely those the young nation of Norway would want to have be recognised by: courage, determination, endurance, as well as the will to meet new challenges.”
The Prime Minister reached the Ceremonial Pole on skis after travelling the some last six kilometres of Amundsen’s journey in temperatures of down to as low as -34C. Conditions were sunny. Norwegian Polar Institute Director and intrepid skier Jan-Gunnar Winther was one of several others who joined him.
Surrounded by flags of the 12 nations that signed the 1959 Antarctic Treaty, PM Stoltenberg unveiled an ice bust of Amundsen to an assembly of approximately 200 people. There are reports a permanent memorial was not chosen following US Antarctic Program officials’ wishes.
Talking of Captain Scott, whose ill-fated Terra Nova Expedition cost him his life after reaching the Pole on 17 January 1912 with Capt. Lawrence Oates, Edward Wilson, Lt. Henry ‘Birdie’ Bowers, and Petty Officer Edgar Evans, the Prime Minister continued, “Nevertheless, their names will forever be inscribed in Polar history. They will always be remembered for their courage and determination in reaching one of the most inhospitable places on earth.”
Today’s ceremony follows the PM’s arrival at the Geographic South Pole on Monday in anticipation of the historic event, which forms part of Norway’s Nansen-Amundsen Year 2011 (read more about Fridtjof Nansen here – external link).
Wisting, Bjaaland, Hassel, Amundsen, South Pole, 1911
Helmer Hanssen/Owner: Nat. Lib. NorwayHe met, Tuesday, with Jan-Gunnar Winther and Stein P. Aasheim, two of the four-man party from the Centenary Expedition to the South Pole retracing Amundsen’s route starting from his base camp at Whale Bay.
The over 700-kilometre journey inland took the men over the Ross Ice Shelf, up the Axel Heiberg Glacier, and on to the South Pole.
After several setbacks, the expedition started two weeks late on 1 November. Freezing temperatures of -30C and strong winds also slowed them down. The men had two days rest. Snow like “fish glue”, as Amundsen described it, added to their problems, NTB reports.
Prime Minister Stoltenberg had expressed doubts whether the men would arrive at the Pole in time. It became apparent yesterday this would not be accomplished. Both Norwegians were flown to the rendezvous, just 80 km from reaching their destination.
The others, Vegard Ulvang and Harald Dag Jølle continued their journey as planned and had 41 kilometres left to go on Tuesday evening. It is hoped they will reach the South Pole today, weather-permitting.
“This is not how I wanted to arrive at the South Pole. It’s nice to be here, but I would rather have come on skis,” said Stein Aasheim to NRK.
Members of one of the other expeditions in the area, using replicas of Amundsen’s clothes and equipment, also had to be flown the last 400 kilometres to the Pole by plane, Saturday, after suffering from high pulse-rates and the effects of high Himalayan altitudes.
Scientific research at the South Pole also formed part of Prime Minister Stoltenberg’s Antarctic programme. Visiting the US National Science Foundation-run Amundsen-Scott Base, which is hosting his visit, he was greeted by scientists studying CO2 emissions.
Oates, Bowers, Scott, Wilson, Evans, South Pole, 1912
Henry Bowers (1882-1912)/W. Commons“The US-Norwegian Antarctic Scientific Traverse [of East Antarctica] made some important discoveries in 2007. The Antarctic Continent has been changing more rapidly in recent years than at any time in the past 800. Some of the fastest and most widespread impacts of climate change appear first in the Polar Regions,” the PM said in his speech today.
“The loss of ice in Antarctica can have dramatic global effects. It is our common responsibility to save this planet for future generations. Roald Amundsen and Robert Scott were prepared to make an extraordinary effort in order to reach their ambitious goals. We must be prepared to do the same.”
Norway and the UK also work closely together on Polar research. Heather Lane, Librarian and Keeper of Collections at the University of Cambridge’s Scott Polar Research Institute, told The Foreigner, “We are pleased and delighted to witness these 100th Centenary celebrations.”
“They raise the profile of Amundsen, Scott, as well as the history and attainment of the Pole. Focusing on what was happening 100 years ago also helps put focus on what is happening now,” she concluded.
The Institute, which has one of Amundsen’s marker flags that was collected by Scott’s British Antarctic Expedition party, is currently displaying an exhibition of manuscripts and photographs from Terra Nova.