South Pole Expedition: facts and secrets

It’s funny, we often speak of the North Pole, more rarely of the South Pole, and never of the West Pole nor of the East Pole. Why this injustice? … Or this forgetfulness?
[Alphonse Allais]

to answer these questions, let’s talk in this new Gazette of the conquest of the South Pole, which begins from the early days of the last century.

So, Where is the South pole? How is it? and What is it?


South Pole Map

The South Pole is the southernmost point of the Earth. Unlike the North Pole, located deep under the pack ice (Arctic Ocean, ice permanently), the South Pole is located on a land, the Antarctic. On the other hand, as for the North Pole, the positions of the geographical and magnetic poles do not coincide.

South pole weather and average temperature

This Pole is a very special place. Plunged half the year into the night (during the austral winter), it benefits rarely from the sun in summer: in fact, the sun is very low permanently (the maximum sun-earth angle is 23,5 °). The Pole is therefore one of the coldest places in the world, with an average of -25 ° C in the middle of summer and -45 ° C during the winter. The temperature records recorded at the Amundsen-Scott station are -13.5 ° C in summer, and -82.8 ° C in winter! Surprisingly, the climate of the Pole is desertic: there is almost no precipitation, so the air is very dry. Below is a table of the average, minimum and maximum temperatures of the Cluster:



First attempt: the Belgian Antarctic expedition

This expedition took place between 1897 and 1899, led by Adrien de Gerlache de Gomery, on the Belgica (three masts of 30 meters). It was then the beginning of the polar expeditions and the crew was not really prepared for what they will face.

The ship therefore left Belgium, on August 16th 1897, heading for the western coasts of Antarctica. Unfortunately, the ship quickly became a prisoner of ice near Peter Island, and remained helpless for 13 long months of drift. Despite this, the expedition proved scientifically fruitful, with sailors bringing back to Europe a considerable amount of scientific data.



The successful south pole expedition

The first successful expedition to the South Pole was – almost – provoked by chance. Amundsen, a Norwegian explorer, planned to reach the North Pole with his ship, the FRAM. But as he approached the departure, a terrible news fell: Robert Peary, an American explorer, had already reached the North Pole. The Amundsen expedition would have lost its exceptional character if it had maintained its course to the north. We know, however, that Robert Peary had actually not really reached the Pole.

On June 3, 1910, the FRAM left Oslo in the direction of the Bering Strait and made its way to Antarctica. At Christmas, he doubled the Cape of Good Hope. In January 1911, arriving in Antarctic land, Amundsen set up his base camp in the “whale bay” as the starting point for the continuation of the expedition without the boat.
He believes then that the Antarctic ice-floe has as its support a large number of small islands: the existence of the continent is not yet known. The rest of the trip is scheduled for spring, with dogs and sleds. Crewmen take advantage of the long austral winter to improve their equipment and create food depots.

On October 19, 1911, Amundsen launched the expedition to the Pole with four men, four sledges, and 52 dogs. On November 21, 24 dogs were killed, feeding the men, other dogs, and burying food in the ice for the return journey. This led Amundsen to be severely criticized.



Roald Amundsen, accompanied by his Norwegian team, was therefore, the first man to reach the Pole on December 14, 1911, after more than a year of the expedition. At the same time, another expedition led by Robert Falcon Scott, made up of English explorers, was trying to reach this same pole. They did so a month later, in January 1912, but all died of cold or hunger on their return trip. The Amundsen expedition returned safely to its base on 25 January, with 11 of the 52 dogs. She will have traveled, with the dogs, 2824 kilometers in 94 days, an average of 30 kilometers per day.
We can note that all the money Amundsen received as a reward for his success was donated to Scott’s family, who died before he could return to England.
We waited until November 29, 1929, and for the first time an airplane flew over the Pole with Bernt Balchen and three companions on board, and the year 1956 to see a man trample the Antarctic land.
At present, a station named Amundsen-Scott, in honor of the first discoverers, has been built and permanently occupied by scientists since 1956.

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