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Ny Ålesund, Svalbard - 5 - Roald Amundsen Bust

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A bust of Roald Amundsen in the center of Ny Ålesund. Amundsen was the first man to reach the South Pole in 1911. He reached the North Pole in May 1926 by the airship Norge N1 that left from here.

When he first set off on the expedition that was to reach the South Pole, he had in fact had the North as his goal but received a message that Frederick Cook had claimed that he had reached the Pole, so his expedition set off southwards instead.

This claim by Cook and another similar one by Robert Edwin Peary shortly afterwards are now not widely accepted (they were either fanciful in the case of Cook or mistaken in the case of Peary).

A flight over the pole by Americans Richard E. Byrd and Floyd Bennett just three days before Amundsen's airship took off leaving from and returning to Spitsbergen is also not proven though accepted at first.

The flight in the semi-rigid airship Norge N1 that had a total of 16 crew is regarded as the first universally agreed expedition to reach the North Pole as it left from Spitsbergen and landed in Alaska.

It may be therefore that Amundsen was not only the first man to reach the South Pole but also one of the first group to reach the North too. The truth will probably never be known.

Amundsen was killed in 1928 on a flight from Norway by seaplane to help in the rescue of Nobile who was attempting to repeat this North Pole trip in another airship, the Italia though had crashed on the way back. Amundsen was never seen again after taking off for from Trømso, wreckage of the aircraft was found but his body was never recovered.

78° 55' N 11° 56' E

Picture copyright Paul Ward

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