News / Science & Technology

Team Retraces Historic South Pole Trek

Winther's team retraced Amundsen's landmark South Pole journey during their centenary expedition. (Centenary South Pole Expedition 2011)
Winther's team retraced Amundsen's landmark South Pole journey during their centenary expedition. (Centenary South Pole Expedition 2011)
Rosanne Skirble
Just over 100 years ago, Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen was the first human to reach the South Pole. Late last year Jan-Gunnar Winther, of Norway’s Polar Institute, retraced that landmark journey.

“We wanted to use his expedition to reach out with important history," Winther says, "and also the scientific challenges that we have today.”

Race to South Pole

A century ago, Amundsen’s single focus was to beat his rival, British naval officer Robert Scott. And race they did.
Team Retraces Historic South Pole Trek
Team Retraces Historic South Pole Treki

Using a sexton, the sun and a watch to guide him, Amundsen made the 3,000-kilometer round-trip journey from a basecamp in Antarctica in 99 days. 

Winther charted his trip from Amundsen’s collected writings. 

He says the Norwegian explorer used dog sleds, where Scott used ponies and motor vehicles.
Team Retraces Historic South Pole Treki
X
Rosanne Skirble
July 03, 2012 7:00 PM
Just over 100 years ago, Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen was the first human to reach the South Pole. Late last year Jan-Gunnar Winther, of Norway’s Polar Institute, retraced that landmark journey. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.

Amundsen was also better equipped and dressed, thanks to lessons he learned from Inuit Indians he met on earlier Arctic explorations.

“He set out with 52 dogs and that was extremely successful," Winther says. "He easily made 30 kilometers a day on average because he made speeds up to eight kilometers an hour.”

Retracing landmark journey

The modern-day adventurers had no dogs and pulled their gear on skis, aided at times by sails attached to the sleds and by GPS systems.  

“We followed his route with a few deviations because we wanted to avoid the more crevassed areas where Amundsen almost fell in and died,” Winther says.

His team moved slowly over the harsh terrain, averaging four kilometers an hour, where Amundsen had traveled nearly twice as fast.  In order to keep up with the historic itinerary, Winther's team spent more time on the ice each day.  

“It is the first 700 kilometers over the Ross Ice Shelf, which is a floating body of ice," he says. "Then you enter the mountains. And when we went through the mountains over 100 kilometers, we climbed up 3,000 meters and then again you get on to the plateau and it is flat all the way to the South Pole.”

The trek required not only physical strength, but mental focus. “Your thoughts were flying like the wind is flying over the ice.”

Winther saw no traces of Amundsen's century-old journey. Although he says there is a fuel can, Winther didn’t make a detour to see it.

The great explorer had also left his tent with a note inside for Scott, who reached the pole 33 days later. That tent is now buried under a century of snow.

Century of climate-changing emissions

Along the route, the scenery looked pretty much as Amundsen had described it.

“Mountains are there," Winther says. "Glaciers are there, but also we were taken by surprise that the snow conditions when Amundsen described soft snow and smooth surface we had the same. When he said it was harder snow pack, we had the same.”  

But the similarities end there. A century of emissions from power plants, cars and buildings have pumped increasing concentrations of global-warming gases into the atmosphere. The average temperature in Antarctica has increased 3 degrees Celsius in the last 50 years, or 10 times faster than the average for the rest of the world, accelerating the thinning and melting of Antarctica’s ice shelves and contributing to sea level rise.

This is the story Winther and his crew told each night when they retired to their tents.  hey wrote web blogs, answered email and connected via satellite with school groups.  

“My idea was to inspire young people, the decision makers of the future to take action on climate change.”

Winther hopes that walking in Amundsen’s footsteps will help raise awareness about the looming threats to this forbidding, but beautiful continent, and promote action to save the planet.


“It is the first 700 kilometers over the Ross Ice Shelf, which is a floating body of ice," he says. "Then you enter the mountains.  And when we went through the mountains over 100 kilometers, we climbed up 3,000 meters and then again you get on to the plateau and it is flat all the way to the South Pole.”

The trek required not only physical strength, but mental focus. “Your thoughts were flying like the wind is flying over the ice.”

Winther saw no traces of Amundsen's century-old journey. Although he says there is a fuel can, Winther didn’t make a detour to see it.

The great explorer had also left his tent with a note inside for Scott, who reached the pole 33 days later. That tent is now buried under a century of snow.

Century of climate-changing emissions

Along the route, the scenery looked pretty much as Amundsen had described it.

“Mountains are there," Winther says. "Glaciers are there, but also we were taken by surprise that the snow conditions when Amundsen described soft snow and smooth surface we had the same. When he said it was harder snow pack, we had the same.”  

But the similarities end there. A century of emissions from power plants, cars and buildings have pumped increasing concentrations of global-warming gases into the atmosphere. The average temperature in Antarctica has increased 3 degrees Celsius in the last 50 years, or 10 times faster than the average for the rest of the world, accelerating the thinning and melting of Antarctica’s ice shelves and contributing to sea level rise.

This is the story Winther and his crew told each night when they retired to their tents.  They wrote web blogs, answered email and connected via satellite with school groups.  

“My idea was to inspire young people, the decision makers of the future to take action on climate change.”

Winther hopes that walking in Amundsen’s footsteps will help raise awareness about the looming threats to this forbidding, but beautiful continent, and promote action to save the planet.

You May Like

China May Be Biggest Winner From Ukraine Crisis

Missile sales, oil and gas shipments are among many areas that may drive Beijing and Moscow closer together in coming years More

Obama Faces a Chaotic World and the Limits of Power

Current foreign policy issues bring into focus challenges for US policymakers who are mindful of Americans' waning appetite for overseas military engagements More

SADC Meeting Lesotho Officials to Resolve Stalemate

Official says regional bloc has been engaged with leaders in Lesotho to resolve political disagreement that led to coup attempt More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid