Roald Amundsen’s diaries from the South Pole Expedition are finally available, both the original Norwegian text and an English translation.
100 years have gone since the Fram left Amundsen’s home just south of Oslo on its way southwards, and the interest for Amundsen and his expeditions is continually growing. There is a flow of new articles and books on Amundsen and the race to the South Pole. Not many of these writers have read the diaries of Roald Amundsen. This is understandable. They are only available in the National Library of Norway in Oslo, they are handwritten in Norwegian, and the South Pole diaries alone include more than 1000 pages.
The tent erected at Polheim in the morning of the 17th of December 1911. From left: Amundsen, Hanssen, Hassel og Wisting. Photo: FM/jfo
Amundsen’s style is short and concise. But, sometimes he writes long paragraphs on how good a job his crew is doing, how much everybody loves the dogs and how beautiful the southern lights are. He is proud of all the work done to improve the equipment for the sledging expedition and how well the Framheim winter station is functioning.
He can’t stop wondering why the British Antarctic expeditions are so negative towards the use of dogs and fur clothing. He also has very little faith in ponies and motor sledges in Antarctica.
These diaries were not intended for publication, but as private notes and foundation for later books.
The content can be very personal and gives of course the subjective version of the different incidents.
By reading the diaries of the other crew members, one should get a good impression of the actual events. Amundsen’s South Pole diaries include only the events Amundsen participated in. For description of the third depot expedition, we refer to the diaries of Hjalmar Johansen and Sverre Hassel. Johansen also writes about the conflict with Amundsen and the sledging expedition to King Edward VII Land, while Thorvald Nilsen writes about life on board the Fram after the South Pole party went ashore. These diaries, in addition to the diaries of Olav Bjaaland and Oscar Wisting, will be published by the Fram Museum in connection with the Nansen and Amundsen anniversaries in 2011.
The intention of the Fram Museum is to communicate Norwegian polar history to a Norwegian and an international audience. By publishing the diaries of as many crew members as possible, as they were written then, we will be able to look at history from new angles. It is important to show that there were more people than the expedition leaders behind the success in the polar regions, even though it was usually only the leader that published the official account of an expedition.
All the diaries are transcribed as they were written, complete and unabridged. They are translated into English. This will secure international access to these important first hand sources.
Roald Amundsen’s diaries from the South Pole Expedition are carefully digitized at the National Library of Norway. The time consuming work of transcribing Amundsen’s handwritten notes is done by volunteers from among the official tourist guides in Oslo. This book would not have been possible without the voluntary work carried out by Aurora Sorter, Knut Aslaksen, Anne Sundby and Signe Jensen.
The translation into English is done by Zena Støp and Jo Barr.