Canterbury Museum

Real People

Canterbury Heritage

Bronze portrait bust of Roald Amundsen (1872 – 1928), sculpted by Arne Vigeland (1900 - 1983) Canterbury Museum Antarctic Collection: 1975.229.1

Bronze bust of Roald Amundsen

This monumental size bronze portrait bust of Roald Amundsen (1872 – 1928), sculpted by Arne Vigeland (1900 - 1983), is a copy of one held by the Norsk Polarinstitutt in Norway. 

Roald Amundsen first went to the Antarctic in 1898 as a member of the Belgica Expedition under Adrien de Gerlache de Gomery. During this expedition Amundsen is credited with being the first to ski and sledge in Antarctica. He led his first polar expedition in the Arctic from 1903 - 1906 in the Gjoa, successfully traversing the North West Passage. In 1910, while planning an expedition to the North Pole, he was informed that Robert Peary had succeeded in reaching it, so he changed direction towards the South Pole, crossing the Antarctic Circle on 2 January 1911.

In February 1911, having set up Franheim Base in the Bay of Whales, teams of men began to lay depots to support the push for the South Pole. These depots contained huge amounts of fuel and food for both men and dogs. Despite delays caused by weather, a team comprising Roald Amundsen, Olav Olavson Bjaaland, Hilmer Hanssen, Sverre Hassel and Oscar Wisting set off for the South Pole with four sledges each pulled by a team of 13 dogs.

On 18 November 1911 the Alex Heiberg Glacier was reached; a steep but direct route to the Polar Plateau. Once on the Plateau 24 dogs were killed to provide food for the remainder and the push to the Pole began.  At 3 pm on Friday 14 December 1911 they reached the South Pole and spent three days taking observations and crisscrossing the area to ensure they had in fact passed over the actual Pole. They left a tent with a letter addressed to King Haakon and another to Robert Scott requesting that he forward it (in case they did not survive) and began the return journey.  With good weather, sufficient food and healthy dogs, they reached Franheim on 25 January 1912.  The Fram picked them up on the 30th January and reached Hobart, Australia on 7 March to break the news of their success.

Canterbury Museum Antarctic Collection: 1975.229.1