A Life in Ice: Roald Amundsen


By: Nathan Chandler

4 Min Quiz

Image: Wiki Commons

About This Quiz

Roald Amundsen must've had a heart made from fire. How else could a human being decide to throw himself into the most barren and frigid areas on the planet, over and over again? But whether he was made of fire or just steely resolve, Amundsen was an adventurer for the ages. How much do you know about his explorations?

Roald Amundsen was the first to accomplish which feat?

Amundsen found permanent glory by becoming the first man to reach the South Pole. He was also the first person confirmed to have reached both the North and South Poles.


Amundsen was no stranger to cold weather. He hailed from which country?

Roald was a hard-headed Norwegian who embraced regions where cold is commonplace. His fortitude held up even in frigid conditions that would have killed lesser people.


He grew up in a family that focused on what type of work?

His family was filled with sea merchant captains and men who owned their own ships. He was determined to do the same.


Why did Roald sleep with his bedroom windows open during the wintertime?

Even as a young lad, Roald was certain he'd live a life pursuing outdoors adventures. He conditioned his body and mind to the cold by leaving his window open during winter nights.


As a young student, Amundsen decided to pursue which field?

He started by studying to become a doctor, in large part to make his mother happy. She died when Roald was in his early 20s, freeing him to pursue more adventurous plans.


Roald joined an 1897 Antarctic expedition, which was the first to do what?

The Belgian Antarctic Expedition was the first to spend the entire winter in the area. They were not entirely prepared in terms of clothing and food … and the situation deteriorated.


What happened to the ship as it approached the frigid continent?

The captain sailed directly into an area that was sure to trap the ship in ice -- and he probably did it on purpose. Whatever the case, as winter set in, the men had no choice but to simply try and survive until the ship was freed.


The men of the 1897 expedition were in Antarctica all winter. For how long did they experience total darkness?

For two solid months, the men were in total darkness. As they drifted in the ice, many of them suffered from scurvy and some of them literally lost their minds. The finally made it home in 1899.


In 1903, Amundsen became the first person to do what?

Amundsen took a small ship and headed for the Northwest Passage. It took more than three years, but he succeeded in making it through the Passage and then returning home to tell about it.


What was one of the reasons his Northwest Passage expedition took so long?

The route was indeed very shallow, but Roald's small ship made it through those areas. The ice, though, often slowed the crew, and they were forced to wait it out.


Roald led numerous major expeditions in dangerous areas. What sort of personality did he have?

Amundsen was a driven man -- and he was also very quiet. He led by example instead of by aggression or humor.


Amundsen planned to be the first to the North Pole. Why did he change his destination in 1910?

An American team beat Amundsen to the North Pole. He was disappointed but instead set his sights on the South Pole.


Roald decided to attempt the South Pole instead of the North Pole. When his expedition left harbor for the adventure, how many people knew the ship was heading south?

Only Roald and his brother knew of the change of plans. Once the ship headed to sea, he changed course and went south to Antarctica.


Why did Roald keep his plans a secret?

England was racing to be the first to the South Pole, and Roald worried that Norwegian authorities would be reluctant to challenge their powerful neighbor and ally. So he alerted no one until the ship was far from shore. And then, of course, he sent a telegram to one of his British rivals to taunt him -- and the race was on.


Roald's crew was literally racing a British team to the South Pole. How much of a head start did Amundsen have?

After a six-month voyage to Antarctica, Roald hit the ice running. He had only a three-week head start on British explorer Robert Scott, who was determined to catch his Norwegian counterpart.


Roald's team was in a huge hurry, scrambling to beat the British to the pole, a fact that had which consequence?

In a state of virtual panic on the ice, the men left their ship and set out on the ice earlier than planned, meaning that the weather was harsher and colder than if they'd waited a few more weeks. The weather took a toll on both dogs and men.


The men set out too early. What happened as a result of the harsher weather that Amundsen's group encountered?

The cold was so awful that the men had to turn back and take shelter at the ship. The hurried start resulted in injured men and dead sled dogs.


After leaving the ship for a second time and setting out for the South Pole, how long did it take the men to reach their destination?

They left the ship in mid-October and reached the South Pole in mid-December. Roald had accomplished his goal of beating everyone to the southernmost point of the Earth.


Amundsen's men used dog sleds to journey to the South Pole. How long was the trip?

The five men set off hoping to survive the 800-mile journey to the pole, knowing full well that even if they accomplished their goal, they'd have to retrace their steps all the way back to the ship.


During the Antarctic expedition, how did Roald refer to the crew's sled dogs?

Roald referred to the dogs as children and bet the expeditions fortunes on their four-legged engines. He picked the dogs carefully for their strength and tenacity in cold climates.


Amundsen's team set off from the ship with 52 sled dogs. With how many dogs did the men return?

Only 11 of the dogs survived the grueling expedition. The dogs that died along the way? The men ate them.


Amundsen beat British explorer Robert Scott and his men to the South Pole by how many days?

Roald won the race to the South Pole by about 33 days. His men left behind items, including a letter to rival Robert Scott, to prove that they'd reached their ultimate destination before anyone else.


What happened to Robert Scott's expedition?

Scott and the four men he took on the dash to the pole all died. They accomplished their feat ... but the cold and blizzard conditions defeated them on their way back to their ship.


Amundsen was a master of which skill?

Roald was a meticulous planner who carefully weighed the pros and cons of his decisions. His preparation and logistics skills buoyed his courage and made him a successful explorer. Robert Scott, on the other hand, took liberties with planning that cost him and his men their lives.


Roald's men didn't anticipate eating their sled dogs during the expedition.

Amundsen took dozens of dogs to the Pole precisely because he knew the men (and other dogs) would be eating them. It was a sad (and slightly psychotic) end for dogs that the men had treated like family.


In 1918, Amundsen launched a new expedition and sailed his ship directly and intentionally into an Artic ice pack. Why?

Roald purposely took his ship as far north as he could and let it freeze into the ice, which he knew would drift north. He wanted to float across the North Pole.


How did the plan to drift across the North Pole end?

This expedition, which consisted of sitting in a ship locked in by ice, was exasperatingly slow, and the ice simply didn't take the boat to where it needed to go. Crew members began leaving the ship and Roald eventually gave up.


After his plan to drift over the North Pole failed, what did Amundsen decide to do?

If he couldn't do it by boat, he wanted to use a plane to fly over the North Pole. He tried to fly from Alaska to Norway but his plane was battered, forcing them to abandon the plan.


In 1928, Roald told a journalist that he wanted to die where?

Amundsen told the journalist that he was so captivated by the Arctic that he wanted to die there. He was about 55 years old when he uttered those words.


How did Amundsen die?

During a 1928 rescue mission in the Arctic, Amundsen's plane crashed. Parts of the wreckage were reportedly found but no one really knows how any of the men died.


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