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At the South Pole, December 1911

The first expedition to reach the geographic South Pole was led by the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen. His party arrived at the pole on 14 December 1911, five weeks ahead of a British team led by Robert Falcon Scott. Amundsen and his companions returned safely to their base, and later learned that Scott and his four companions had died on their return journey. Amundsen's initial plans had been to explore the Arctic, but he decided to go south on hearing that both Frederick Cook and Robert E. Peary were claiming to have reached the North Pole. However, he kept this revised objective secret until after his departure. The expedition arrived in Antarctica in January 1911 and after months of preparation the five-man polar party set out in October 1911. The route from their base at the Bay of Whales took them across the Great Ice Barrier and up the Axel Heiberg Glacier. The party's mastery of the use of skis and their expertise with sledge dogs ensured rapid and relatively trouble-free travel. Although the expedition's success was widely applauded, the story of Scott's heroic failure and tragic death overshadowed its achievements. For his decision to keep his true plans secret until the last moment, Amundsen was criticised for what some considered deception on his part. (more...)

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