1910–1912 Fram expedition
The crew of the Fram expedition was originally selected to carry out a multi-year operation across the Arctic Ocean, but ended up going to Antarctica and the South Pole. The crew had varied backgrounds and experiences; many had spent large parts of their lives at sea, some had participated in polar expeditions, while others were selected because of their useful skills or as good skiers.
On arrival in the Bay of Whales in Antarctica, nine men were put ashore, while the rest of the crew completed the first oceanographic work in the Southern Ocean.
Took some part
“Treasure chest” found at Uranienborg
On 22 November 2015, Henrik Smith – then department director at the Follo museum – discovered a chest in one of the outbuildings at Roald Amundsen’s home. On one side of the chest was written, “Leon Amundsen, Kristiania, Norway. From Roald Amundsen, Nome, Alaska.”
The find led to the launch in 2020 of a major digitization project. Read more about the discovery of the chest in Aftenposten, 26.11.2015 📜.
Fourteen hundred photographs, including negatives on both nitrate and glass, paper positives of various sizes, and slides varying in size and quality were contained in the chest. Also inside were notebooks, lectures, rationing diaries, letters, photographic postcards, and much, much more.
Almost at the top of the pile was an envelope on which was written in English, “North West Passage, Photographs not used” – inside were over 350 photographs apparently returned to Amundsen by the publishers of the English edition of his book on the Gjøa expedition.
As well as new images from the Gjøa expedition, several photos from the Fram expedition were found, including a repronegative of the famous photo taken by Olav Bjaaland at the South Pole. This copy from the original may be a step closer to the original than we knew existed.
The photographic material originates mainly from the years 1903 to 1920. Most of the public images are inscribed with date and place, whereas many of the private images lack such information.
A war lecture from 1918 and scientific works by Harald Ulrik Sverdrup from the Maud expedition were also in the chest, as were some more personal items, such as a book containing an alphabetical summary of songs Roald Amundsen liked.
The entire contents of the chest will be digitized and made accessible here📜
It is a little past midnight when the Fram weighs anchor just off Amundsen’s home at Svartskog on 7 June 1910.
On land are closest friends and family. They wave with Norwegian flags and white handkerchiefs. There is a slight breeze in the air but the summer night is still warm. In addition to Amundsen, there are nineteen men on board Fram, but only a few know where they are going.
“It may possibly appear to many people that I was running a pretty big risk in thus putting off till the last moment the duty of informing my comrades of the very considerable detour we were to make. Suppose some of them, or perhaps all, had objected! It must be admitted that it was a great risk, but there were so many risks that had to be taken at that time,” wrote Amundsen later.📜
The next day, June 8, the Fram is in Horten and Amundsen uses the opportunity to send a letter to Fridtjof Nansen, the man who has given him permission to use the Fram to drift across the Arctic Ocean.
“Once again before we go, I must send you my warmest thanks for everything you have done for me. We are going today and we will seek to do what is in our power. Respectfully, Roald Amundsen.” 📜
What Amundsen chooses not to mention in Nansen’s letter is that the plan has changed.
After a month-long oceanographic cruise in the waters around the British Isles, on which both crew and engine are tested, the course is eventually set towards Kristiansand. Here, the Greenland dogs come aboard – ninety-seven of them – and are given their different names: Obersten (the Colonel), Lucy, Storm, Suggen, Arne, Kamilla, Knægten, Madeiro and the rest.
On July 10, the journey south begins.
Polar ship Fram
The plan is revealed
On September 9, 1910, the Fram is lying off Funchal in Madeira. In Norway, newspapers can report that the Fram will stay here for three days to load coal and provisions, while in Funchal the newspapers write something completely different. They write that Amundsen is going to the South Pole. They think it seems likely now the expedition has arrived in Madeira.
Little do they know how right they are.
Fortunately for Amundsen, the rumours do not spread beyond Madeira. For it is from here, far from home, that Amundsen will inform the crew and later the world that the planned North Pole expedition is actually going south.
“At 6 o’clock I called all the men together and informed them of my intention to try for the South Pole. When I asked if they were willing to follow me, I got a unanimous – yes,” writes Amundsen in his diary that day.📜
Leon Amundsen, who has met the expedition in Funchal, takes home the mail, including another letter from Amundsen to Nansen. Written on August 22, almost three months after he last wrote to Nansen, this letter has a completely different content:
“It is not with a light heart, that I send you these lines, but there is no way around it, and so I might as well get on with it. […] Yes, it is difficult for me, Herr Professor, to inform you, but since September 1909 my decision has been to take part in the contest to answer this challenge. Many times I have been on the point of confiding all to you, but always waited for fear that you would stop me. I have often wished that Scott had been aware of this decision of mine, so that it did not appear that I would sneak down there without his knowledge to get ahead of him, but I have not dared to make any publication for fear of being stopped.”📜
At the same time, Robert Falcon Scott is also informed. On October 5, after Leon Amundsen has returned home to Kristiania (Oslo), he sends the Englishman a telegram:
”Captain Robert F. Scott
S.S Terra Nova, Melbourne
Beg leave to inform you Fram
While the world tries to digest the news of Amundsen’s new plan, the Fram continues south.
On October 2, there is a party on board the Fram. Equator party. The entire ship is decorated with flags and banners. Coffee, wine, brandy and biscuits are brought on deck. Sundbeck and Prestrud bring out the mandolin. The gramophone is hung under the boom of the mainsail. Out over the ocean ring songs like “Ja, vi elsker” (Norway’s national anthem), “Dollarprinsessen”, “Les millions d’Arlequin”, “Graf von Luxemburg” and “The happy troll”. Hjalmar Fredrik Gjertsen then twirls around in a white dress like a ballerina.
Even the dogs are invited to dance by some of the crew.
The Fram arrived in the Bay of Whales, Antarctica, on January 14, 1911, ten days after Terra Nova and Scott arrived on Ross Island, where they established their base at Cape Evans. About the choice of the Bay of Whales, Amundsen writes in his diary for January 25,
“Here on this barrier [ice shelf], which Ross kept a respectful distance from. Here on this same barrier as Shackleton praised his God that he had not landed – here we have built our house – here we shall have our home. […] But, that Scott did not go in here to take the great opportunities a degree further south offers, I do not understand. Not one of us gave a thought to any danger with this. The future will show if we were right.” 📜
Although their bases are a long way apart, the two expeditions are still close enough to meet.
On February 4, Terra Nova is on its way back to Ross Island after an unsuccessful attempt to land and explore King Edward VII Land. Scott is currently busy establishing depots on his route to the South Pole and not on board, but for the rest of the crew a big surprise awaits when they sail past the Bay of Whales.
There is the Fram.
For the first time, the English get to see the Norwegians’ plans. They are impressed with the dogs, the logistics and the equipment. Even Lindstrøm’s homemade hotcakes are to their liking.
With the Fram settled at the ice edge in the Bay of Whales, the crew quickly begin to move materials, equipment and provisions onto the ice. They move up to 10 tons of equipment and materials every day.
A few kilometres onto the ice shelf, they find a site to build the winter hut. Bjaaland and Stubberud take the job; first several metres must be dug into the snow, then the surface must be levelled, before the various modules for the hut are erected. After 10 days, Framheim is ready to move in to.
Equipment and clothing
Before winter, the Norwegians make three trips to lay depots on the route to the South Pole.
The first starts on February 10. Amundsen, Johansen, Prestrud and Hansen head towards 80° S. The sledges weigh around 250 kg, and six dogs are harnessed in front of each. The trip gives a taste of what they have in store for them next season.
The day after they set off, Amundsen writes in his diary:
”Have throughout gone only in one shirt and undertrousers -11 ° C. The dogs pull superbly to lead, here on the ice shelf is ideal. Do not understand, what the English mean when they say that they cannot use dogs here. There are no better draft animals under these circumstances.”📜
On February 14 they reach 80° S and leave salt beef, chocolate, pemmican, biscuits and more. In total, they leave 500 kg of provisions.
To make the depot visible, they mark it with ten black flags in a line running east-west, at 500-metre intervals. Each flag is numbered so that they know where they are in relation to the depot. In addition, ten numbered bamboo poles with black pennants, one for every 15 km, are deployed to mark the way to the depot. The route home is marked with stockfish every half kilometre.
On the return trip, with unladen sledges, they really get to prove what the dogs are capable of. The first day they cover 70 km, the second day 100, which takes them back to Framheim in two days.
One week later, on February 22, it is time for a new depot trip. This time they leave 500 kg of provisions and fuel at 81° S and 620 kg at 82° S. Both depots are just as properly marked as the first. A month later, every man is sitting around the long table at Framheim again. But the trip had its cost. Eight dogs lost their lives in the hard drive, leaving 85 adult dogs and 22 puppies still available for more sledge journeys.
The third trip goes to the depot at 80° S, but due to a wound in the rectum that would not heal, Amundsen is left at Framheim with Lindstrøm. Hjalmar Johansen is set to lead the trip. This time, approx. 1200 kg of seal meat was left in the depot.
When winter comes, Amundsen knows that he has more than enough food and fuel established on the route to the Pole. In addition, they have acquired valuable experience with the equipment and dogs, and with the Antarctic weather.
Life in Framheim is characterized by careful preparation and planning and high well-being. In the kitchen, Lindstrøm rules. In the large living room, people sleep, eat, play cards and throw darts at the bullseye. In the various snow caves that are dug around Framheim during the winter, the men get their different workspaces.
The journey to the South Pole
On July 4, 1911, Amundsen presents what he calls an improved plan:
“We leave Framheim around mid-September, 8 men, 7 sledges, 84 dogs and provisions & equipment.”📜
The plan is to stop at each depot, eat well and save energy. At the depot at 82°, they will build snow houses and wait for the midnight sun to return around mid-October, before moving further south. Everyone around the table guesses on what date they will reach the South Pole, Amundsen himself bets on December 2, 1911.
Amundsen is still impatient, preparing for departure on several occasions, but the cold and weather conditions make things difficult. Everyone knew what was going on: “if you were not the first at the South Pole, you might just as well just stay at home,” wrote Sverre Hassel in his diary.
On Friday, September 8, 1911, it is finally clear. Outside, the thermometer shows -38° C. Lindstrøm is the only one left at Framheim. He thinks it means bad luck to leave on a Friday. From Framheim, he watches the caravan with 84 dogs on seven sledges and eight men moving across the ice shelf.
But not many days pass before the first problems arise.
When they crawl out of the tent on Monday 11 September, the temperature has dropped almost 30 degrees since they left Framheim. It is -55.5° C and getting colder. As the breath of men and dogs freezes in the air, it’s like walking through a dense fog. The alcohol in the compasses freezes, and the mood drops to match. On September 14, they reach the depot at 80° S, where they decide to leave equipment and return to Framheim. Both dogs and men struggle with frostbite.
“To risk men and animals to stubbornly continue once I had set off – this never entered my mind. If we are to win the game, the pieces must be moved well – one mistake and everything can be lost,” writes Amundsen in his diary for 12 September. 📜
With 75 km still left to Framheim, the decision is made to drive without stopping. The decision is bold – the distance is double that of a normal day’s march – but the weather conditions are promising, and for several of the men and dogs, their frostbite is starting to get serious.
Nine hours later, Hanssen, Wisting and Amundsen are the first to enter Framheim. Two hours later, Bjaaland arrives, and half an hour later, Stubberud and Hassel come through the door.
But there are still two men left, Prestrud and Johansen. They still have a mile to go, with neither food nor fuel, and both they and the dogs have frostbite. Prestrud is badly hurt; with great pain in his feet, and staggers after Johansen and the dogs. As darkness sets in, the temperature drops below minus 50 degrees.
Only after midnight do Prestrud and Johansen set eyes on the light from Framheim. At the door, they are greeted by Amundsen and Lindstrøm’s hot coffee. Little is said before they all go to bed, but the next morning the reaction comes.
“At the breakfast table this morning I asked about the reason for their long absence. To my surprise, Joh. saw fit to make unflattering statements about me in my position as leader of our enterprise here,”📜 writes Amundsen in his diary for 17 September.
“The grave and unforgivable in these statements is that they were made for all to hear. Here the bull had to be taken by the horns and the example established immediately. At the dinner table I then said that after these statements of his I found it most appropriate to exclude him from participating in the journey to the Pole. Instead, I have written ordering him to take part in a research expedition to King Edward 7’s Land under the leadership of Pr.”📜
Later in the day, Hjalmar Johansen delivers a rejection of Amundsen’s new order to proceed under Prestrud’s command to King Edward VII Land.
“At the dinner table I asked each individual what he thought of my actions. There was only one opinion that I had acted correctly. This was a sad end to our excellent unity. But I found it only right to exclude him after his behaviour. On our journey south, there must be no critical elements. Especially, when they come from an old polar explorer like him, they become doubly dangerous.”📜
There are several sources for the story of this episode. Amundsen’s diary reveals only his version of the situation. From the others who were in Framheim that day come several different descriptions, and their diaries reveal more details about both the trip home and the settlement the following morning. The way Amundsen handled Johansen’s criticism has in modern times been often used to characterize both men’s personalities and leadership qualities.
What is known for sure is that the mood and the plan changed. Johansen felt betrayed, not only by the leader of the expedition, but also by all the others. In his diary on September 17, he writes,
“They are now relieved that what should be said has been said by another, and they smile and are now even gentle towards the leader. The scapegoat has been found.“📜
The plan had to be changed, and it had consequences for several.
Three men were expelled from the polar party. Johansen, Prestrud and the carpenter Jørgen Stubberud were commissioned to undertake a sledge expedition eastwards towards King Edward VII Land. Johansen joined in the end.
It’s 20 October when they try again; Amundsen, Wisting, Hassel, Hanssen and Bjaaland.
Four sledges with thirteen dogs in each team. The departure is captured on film by the four who remain at Framheim.
The journey as far as 82° S follows known sledge tracks, but beyond that is unknown terrain, seen by no one. Several times they have to fight their way through dangerous crevasse fields; both sledges and men fall, but each time they recover.
The map Amundsen has in the tent gets new lines for each day and for each latitude they pass.
On November 21, they slog their way onto the plateau, 2,800 metres above sea level. For 24 of the dogs, this will be the end of the journey; they are shot and distributed as food to both dogs and men. The place is named Slakteren (The butcher’s shop). The party pushes on with three sledges, provisions for 60 days and 18 dogs.
As they approach the top of the plateau, they also encounter new crevasse fields.
”‘Fandens bre’ [Devil’s glacier] has proved worthy of its name. One walks two miles to make one. Chasm after chasm, abyss after abyss, must be walked around. Treacherous cracks, among other things, make progress extremely difficult. The dogs are struggling, and the drivers no less.”, writes Amundsen in his diary on 30 November. 📜
When they pass 88° 23′ S, the point where the British Ernest Shackleton had to turn back in 1909, they are closer to the South Pole than anyone has been before them. The moment makes Amundsen struggle to hold back his tears:
“My snow goggles annoyed me from time to time. A rather weak breeze from S fogged them up and made it difficult to see. Then all of a sudden I hear a loud, powerful hurrah behind me. I turn around. In this light breeze from S wave the dear, familiar colours of this first sledge, where they have surpassed the Englishmen’s record and left it behind. – It was a wonderful sight. The sun had just broken through in all its splendour to illuminate in such a wonderfully beautiful way the lovely little flag – gift from Helland Hansen and Nordahl Olsen –. My goggles now misted again. But it was not the southerly wind, which this time was to blame. We stopped at 88° 23.2′ to congratulate each other. We were all happy and satisfied.“ 📜
Six days later, on December 14, 1911, they are there.
”Then we managed to plant our flag at the geographical South Pole – King Haakon VII’s Plateau. Thank God! It was 3 p.m. when this happened.” 📜
But the job is not yet complete. The next day, they begin circling the pole. Getting to the South Pole first has little value if you cannot prove it. Bjaaland, Hassel and Wisting set out, 20 kilometres in each direction, carrying with them a sledge runner with a black flag attached.
In fact, they are doing something foolhardy and life-threatening.
Without a compass, they rely on either navigating back with the sun or following their tracks back. Amundsen later wrote:
“But to trust to tracks in these regions is a dangerous thing. Before you know where you are the whole plain may be one mass of driving snow, obliterating all tracks as soon as they are made […] That these three risked their lives that morning, when they left the tent at 2.30, there can be no doubt at all, and they all three knew it very well.”📜
On Sunday 17 December, the five Norwegians get up early, break camp and begin the journey towards what they have calculated is the actual Pole. Olav Bjaaland gets the honour of going first. The course must be kept straight if they are to hit the Pole exactly. Amundsen goes to the back to check.
At 11 o’clock they stop. They are there. They erect the small tent, which they name Polheim, and begin the work of calculating the observations. Every hour throughout the day, they are out with the sextant and the artificial horizon to take the position.
“We’re going to observe all night, as these results are quite noteworthy. We must, after all, now consider this place the Pole. We pitch our little tent here tomorrow to leave the place heading N. A boil gave 11000 feet a.s.l. Here we are at the South Pole – an extremely flat snow plain. Almost nothing uneven to see. The sun passes around the sky at practically the same height to shine and warm from a cloudless sky. It’s quiet tonight and so peaceful. The dogs are all stretched out in the sun to enjoy, despite the slight hustle and bustle – apparently life is pretty good” .📜
The fear is there all the time, that they are not the first.
“We have all used the binoculars diligently to see if there were signs of life in any place – but in vain. We are probably the first here.”📜
Above is a 3D version of one of the sledge compasses they took with them on the journey to the South Pole. In total, they had four instruments. Amundsen later took this compass home with him, and it is still in his study today at Uranienborg.
It is approaching eight in the evening of December 18 when Amundsen and the others get ready to begin the journey home.
“We have erected the small tent, and the Norwegian flag with [the pennant] “Framvimpel” beneath fly from the top of the tent pole. In the tent are left several things: My sextant with horizon glass, a hypsometer, three reindeer skin foot bags, some kamiks and mittens and incidentally some trifles. I leave in a folder a letter to the King and a few words to Scott, who I must assume will be the first to visit the place after us. To the tent pole we staple a plaque, on which we all write our names – And so goodbye, dear Pole – we will probably not see each other again.”📜
They decide to travel at night, so that they get the sun on their backs. Bjaaland goes first, then the others follow with the dogs. On Christmas Eve, they arrive at the depot they had left at 88° 25′ and celebrate the evening with a porridge of biscuits and the last cigars. There is still more than 1,000 km to Framheim.
They reach the severely crevassed areas around Fandens Bre in early January, but confusion reigns. They are off-course and do not recognize their surroundings. They arrive at the depot at Slakteren on 5 January. Amundsen writes in his diary:
“HH it was, with his sharp eyes, discovered it. Had that not been the case, I certainly do not know how it would have gone. The land was utterly unrecognizable – entirely as if I had never seen it before.“📜
Two days later, they reach the depot at 85° 09′, by the mountain named after Amundsen’s nanny, Betty. Amundsen sent Hanssen and Wisting up to the small peak to build a cairn.
“HH & W are going now – after having packed the depot on the sledges – up to ‘Bettytoppen’ to build a stone cairn and leave a report. In the cairn, a can of paraffin is walled in (17 l.) together with 2 packs of matches (20 boxes). They could possibly come in handy in the future.”📜
The cairn was rediscovered in 1929 and has since been visited by a few expeditions.
A contrasting return
17 January 1912 becomes a red-letter day for Roald Amundsen and the four other Norwegians.
They reach the depot at 82°. Now only around 370 km remain before they are home at Framheim, a distance that is also well marked from the year before.
“Had a small feast tonight on the occasion of our arrival at ‘civilization’s most southerly outpost’. W. must cook on such occasions. He treated me to a mixture of pemmican and seal meat. For dessert chocolate porridge. – Milk flour, which has been lying on top of the depot in a fairly thin sack exposed to strong moisture and burning sun, was just like the day we put it on board. The sweet biscuits were also just as nice as before. The chocolate too.” 📜
On the same day, five Britons stand around a tent at the South Pole.
They had realized their defeat the day before, when they spotted a black flag fluttering in the wind in front of them. The flag was one of the markers the Norwegians had set up when they circled the pole. Robert Falcon Scott, who until that day had had a hope that they could reach the South Pole as the first, realizes the defeat when he sees the flag.
”The worst has happened, or nearly the worst. […]. This told us the whole story. The Norwegians have forestalled us and are first at the Pole. It is a terrible disappointment, and I am very sorry for my loyal companions. Many thoughts come and much discussion have we had. Tomorrow we must march on to the Pole and then hasten home with all the speed we can compass. All the day dreams must go; it will be a wearisome return.” 📜
When the five Britons arrive at the South Pole on January 17, they find the tent with the Norwegian flag at the top. Inside are the letters and things from Amundsen.
On January 26, 99 days after departure, Amundsen and the four other Norwegians are back at Framheim. Four days later, on January 30, everyone is back on board the Fram, which has spent the meantime at the quay in Buenos Aires and on an oceanographic cruise in the South Atlantic. A course is set for Hobart, Tasmania.
At the same time, Scott and his four comrades are still on their way home from the Pole. They are in the middle of the plateau, at an altitude of over 3000 metres, surrounded by ice and over 1000 kilometres from the expedition’s base at Cape Evans. But this far they never reach. All five die on the way back, and only Wilson, Bowers and Scott are later found. With Scott is found the letter Amundsen had left to King Haakon.
Upon arrival in Hobart, the Fram drops anchor and Amundsen goes ashore in disguise.
From Hobart he sends the first telegrams, all written in code, to his brother Leon, to Nansen and to King Haakon.
Amundsen, Roald: “Sydpolen: den norske sydpolsfærd med Fram 1910-1912”, 1912.
Amundsen, Roald: “The South Pole : an account of the Norwegian Antarctic expedition in the Fram 1910-1912”, 1912. 📜
National Library of Norway: Roald Amundsens privatarkiv , Roald Amundsens sydpolsferd (film) 1910–1912.
British Library: Robert Falcon Scott’s diary
1910–1912 Fram expedition
Equipment used during the sledge journey to the South Pole and back to Framheim, 1911–12.
- 6 three-person tents from the Navy stores in Horten. Sewn from dense cotton canvas with full floor. Over the course of the winter in Framheim, these tents were sewn together and modified. Read more about the South Pole tent.
- 1 “Pole tent”, three-person tent sewn by Martin Rønne during the passage to Antarctica. The tent was left at the South Pole.
- Provision boxes. Originally 30 cm wide and 40 cm high. Made of ash and supplied from Minister Wedel Jarslberg’s property in Jutland, Denmark. The boxes were equipped with a small round lid in the top which made them easy to open during the sledge journey. Jørgen Stubberud modified these boxes during the winter in Framheim; he reduced the weight and reinforced them with aluminum corner fittings.
- 10 sledges from L.H. Hagen & Co, Kristiania (Oslo). Built of American hickory, with steel fittings and elements of Norwegian ash.
- 20 pairs of skis from L.H. Hagen & Co, Kristiania (Oslo). The skis were made of hickory and were 8 feet (2.5 metres) long. The ski bindings were a combination of Huitfeldt and Høyer-Ellefsen bindings. The dogs thought the bindings were a delicacy, so they were modified during the winter in Framheim to be easily detached from the skis and taken in every night.
- 40 bamboo ski poles with ebonite baskets.
- 10 pairs of snowshoes.
- 100 dog harnesses. Sewn at the Navy’s workshop in Horten according to a model inspired by harnesses used in Alaska. Amundsen thought that it was best to travel with the dogs in tandem front of the sledge, and the harnesses were sewn to lie over each dog’s shoulder area, which suited such driving. But when the dogs could not be made to run in a line, but rather ran in fan form as they were used to from Greenland, the harnesses had to be re-sewn so that they pressed more on the chest.
- 14 dog whips. Made by Helmer Hanssen, Sverre Hassel and Jørgen Stubberud during the winter in Framheim.
- 1 set of thin one-person sleeping bags made of reindeer calfskin or doeskin, for use as an inner bag. The Pole Party left its inner bags at the South Pole.
- 1 set of thick individual sleeping bags made of reindeer skin. Each sleeping bag weighed 6 kilos. For these bags, they also had a cover of dense canvas to protect the sleeping bags during the day’s sledging and against moisture at night. The sleeping bags had thin hide at the top, so that the lacing could be tightened, and thicker hide at the bottom. Several of the crew tried to modify the sleeping bags. Kristian Prestrud and Hjalmar Johansen sewed their bags together into a double bag. Bjaaland re-sewed his sleeping bag so that the opening came in the middle and it could be opened and closed with flaps and loops.
- Primus stove.
- Paraffin from Vestlandske Petroleumskompagni. When leaving for the South Pole, they took with them 102 litres in addition to what had already been placed in the depots. The paraffin containers were permanently soldered together so that they would not leak during the sledge journey.
- 5 Nansen cookers. Not used on the sledge journey to the South Pole, as they took up too much space.
- 2 sextants.
- 3 artificial horizons. 2 glass horizons with dark glass and 1 mercury horizon.
- 4 spirit compasses. The alcohol in the compasses froze when the temperature was below -40 °C.
- 1 pocket compass.
- 2 pairs of binoculars (brand: Zeiss and Goertz).
- 2 cameras.
- Air thermometer.
- 2 aneroid barometers.
- 2 hypsometers.
- Medical equipment (supplied by Svaneapoteket and Burroughs Wellcome and Co, London).
- Snow goggles with lenses in different colours. Supplied by Dr. Schanz, Berlin. Over the winter, the crew developed several different models of snow goggles.
Amundsen, Roald: “Sydpolen: den norske sydpolsfærd med Fram 1910-1912”, 1912. 📜
Amundsen, Roald: “The South Pole : an account of the Norwegian Antarctic expedition in the Fram 1910-1912”, 1912. 📜
Skimuseet in Holmenkollen: “Roald Amundsens Sydpolekspedisjon 1910-1912” at Digitaltmuseum.no
1910–1912 Fram expedition
South Pole tent
The tent used during the sledge journey to the South Pole in 1911 provides a unique insight into the expedition members’ abilities to modify and develop their equipment. After the expedition, Amundsen donated the tent to the Ski Museum now in Holmenkollen. It was on display for several years, but is today stored for preservation. In February 2021, the tent was digitized using photogrammetry.
Fram expedition originally took with it six three-person tents from the Navy’s stores in Horten. The first depot-laying trips in preparation for the South Pole journey in 1911 gave Amundsen and the crew valuable experience with the tents, which led to several modifications. During the trip to the depot at 82° S, they pitched their tents with the doors facing each other, which made it easier to distribute food and other things without leaving the tent. Amundsen himself described the further development:
“This circumstance led to a radical change in our tent system and gave us the idea for probably the best 5-man tent to have seen the light of day in the polar regions. As we lay that night lurking in our sleeping bags thinking of everything and nothing, the idea suddenly struck that if the tents were sewn together as they now stood – after the front walls had been cut away – we would have a tent that was much larger and more spacious for 5 than the two separate tents as they now were” 📜
On returning to Framheim, Oscar Wisting sewed the tents together to create two five-person tents, with both more space and less weight than before. In addition, he sewed in a lighter floor. The original tent floor weighed 5 kilos and was sewn from a thin tarpaulin, but Wisting’s new floor was made of a thin canvas fabric that weighed only half this. Additionally to the tents being further developed, the guy ropes were replaced, and the tent pole, originally made of ash, was replaced with a lighter bamboo pole made by Jørgen Stubberud.
The tents also changed colour. The original white made the tents nearly invisible in the otherwise white landscape, and also ensured that they absorbed little light and heat. Amundsen described the work with the dyeing in his diary of 16 June 1911:
“Our sledging tents are of thin, white cloth and this will not be good until spring when the sun gets high. It would then be far preferable to have a dark tent so that after the day’s work one could come in & rest one’s eyes. Another thing is that the dark colour absorbs the sun’s rays to a much greater extent and makes it warmer inside the tent. Well, we rarely get stuck. Now we have made a mixture of ink powder and black dubbin and with this product we will probably succeed in getting the tent just as dark as we want.”📜
After complete modification, the tents were reduced by more than 4 kilos and now weighed only 6 kilos. Even new tent pegs were made during the winter in Framheim. Hjalmar Johansen made 27 of them. According to Amundsen, they were made “just the opposite of what such pegs in general are: that is, they were flat instead of tall. We soon saw the advantage. Besides being many times lighter, they were also many times stronger.” 📜
Prior to the actual sledge journey to the South Pole, the tent also had an outer tent sewn from the red bunk curtains they had in Framheim. This meant that the tent both absorbed more sunlight and retained more heat. They had just enough bunk curtains to cover. On October 24, 1911, four days after leaving for the South Pole, Amundsen wrote in his diary:
“We have it great in the tent. We came up with the good idea of sewing one outer tent from our two bunk curtains. This red-coloured outer tent proves to be excellent, as to a high degree it collects the sun’s heat and keeps the inner heat. This is a huge difference from the previous trip. Now we are always in dry bedding – warm & good. Another great advantage is that the tents are now always dark inside – and this may be needed when you have been staring at snow all day.”📜
Amundsen was also worried that the dogs could destroy the tent during the sledge journey, so Wisting made a cloth fence from gabardine that could be pulled around the tent and attached to ski poles. This, however, was never used, as the men realized that they could instead make a wall of snow to protect the tent.
Several times during the South Pole journey, Amundsen writes about how hot it is in the tent. On the return journey from the Pole, Amundsen wrote on 14 January 1912:
“It has been so hot in the tent lately that several of us have to get out of the bags. Then we lie there in thin underwear on a skin on top of a large ice block – for the barrier is nothing but.”📜
After the expedition, Amundsen donated much of his expedition equipment to the Ski Museum now in Holmenkollen.
Frank Wilbert Stokes was an American painter who specialized in motifs from the Arctic and Antarctic. Amundsen acquired two paintings by him; this one shows the polar ship Fram in Antarctica and was painted by Stokes in 1913.
Framheim was used as a wintering hut in Antarctica from 28 January 1911 to 30 January 1912. The hut was established on the ice shelf in the Bay of Whales, but disappeared into the sea sometime around 1960 after this part of the ice shelf calved off.
Uranienborg in summer 1910
Framheim was designed by Jørgen Stubberud, who together with his brothers Harald and Hans and members of the expedition, erected the hut outside Amundsen’s home at Svartskog in the summer of 1910. By assembling the hut before departure, they had the opportunity to put the various parts together before loading them onto the Fram. This allowed them to establish it more quickly when they arrived in Antarctica.
Framheim was 8 metres long, 4 metres wide and 3 metres high at the apex. The materials came from the Skedsmo Dampsag & Høvleri yard in Kristiania (Oslo).
Framheim was a “lemhytte”, a prefabricated hut designed to be disassembled, transported and reassembled easily. The walls consisted of three-inch thick boards with air in between, put together as panels. It was also insulated with fibreboard. The floors and ceiling in the rooms were double-skin, while the ceiling was single-skin. The panel walls were covered with tar, and the roof was covered with tar-board. To retain the heat, both doors and windows were made extra thick. The window in the largest room was triple-glazed, while the kitchen window was double-glazed.
Bay of Whales 1911–1912
After Fram arrived at the Bay of Whales in January 1911, Framheim was established 4 kilometres from the ice front, at approx. 78° 38ʹ S, 163° 40ʹ W. It took Olav Bjaaland and Jørgen Stubberud 10 days to set Framheim up, with Kristian Prestrud providing the name itself.
No expedition had previously erected a hut on the ice shelf. In case the ice should break or they otherwise needed to evacuate, the crew had one of the lifeboats from Fram lying on the ice. Fourteen large tents were also erected around Framheim and used to house the dogs, provisions and litter.
Framheim’s mascot was a wind-up doll named Olava. According to Amundsen, she had a face like an angry old maid, with light brownish yellow hair, drooping lower jaw and a lovesick look.
Framheim consisted of two rooms; a larger living room with a long table and bunks along the wall, and a small kitchen. Later, an annex was built on outside the kitchen.
The long table in the large living room was designed so that it could be hoisted up to the ceiling to clean the floor. Linoleum was laid on the floor, and Lindstrøm painted the ceiling white to brighten the room. All cups, plates, knives, forks, spoons, jugs and glasses were marked with Fram. The lux lamp in the ceiling (model AB Lux 200) provided both warmth and light, while the gramophone (Deutsche Grammophon AG, Monarch II), which was at the bottom of the long table, created a good atmosphere. On the wall at the far left hung three cut-out portraits of the royal family.
The kitchen was Lindstrøm’s space. Throughout the winter, he served hotcakes with jams, freshly baked wholemeal bread, seal meat, canned fruit, pie or pudding and coffee. He was always first up in the morning and most often first to bed in the evening.
The kitchen was also used for teaching English throughout the winter. Prestrud was the teacher, and the students were Wisting, Hanssen, Bjaaland and Stubberud. After graduating, they were able to read the English books of Scott and Shackleton, which were part of Framheim’s library.
Daily routines were quickly established, and one of the regular rituals in the morning was that everyone estimate the temperature outside. After four months of guessing, Hjalmar Johansen was named the best. As a prize, he received a pair of binoculars. In the evenings, a dart throwing competition was arranged. A small target was hung inside the kitchen door, and the throwing took place from the end of the table, about 3 metres away. Lindstrøm never participated, but instead took out the deck and played solitaire. Hassel, Amundsen and Wisting most often hit the kitchen door, Bjaaland used to sneak closer, and Johansen, Prestrud and Hassel were good. But no one was as good as Stubberud, who walked away with the overall victory when spring came. Amid great excitement and cheers, he was presented with a gold watch as a prize.
Saturdays were for cutting, shaving and steam washing. Saturday night included a toddy and cigar. Sundays were kept quiet, often with a gramophone concert in the evening.
In addition to equipment improvements and preparations for the sledge journey to the South Pole, meteorological observations were carried out during the winter in Framheim. Chef Adolf Henrik Lindstrøm was appointed deputy manager at “Framheim meteorological station”. Inside the kitchen hung several instruments, and they built their own station outside. The observations were later recorded in notebooks that are currently in the National Library.
A wind-vane marked “1911” was made by Knut Sundbeck on board Fram. It had its place next to the Stevenson meteorological screen outside Framheim. The wind-vane was one of the few objects Amundsen took home to Svartskog from Framheim. He had it mounted on top of the flagpole at Uranienborg. Below you can explore the 3D model of it.
When Framheim was covered in snow through the winter, the opportunity arose to expand the living space. First, a passage was dug around the cabin to provide access to clean snow and more space to store food, then more passages were dug and caves excavated. Eventually they had established an entire small village under the snow.
Farewell to Framheim
After the Pole Party headed south on October 20 and the East Party left on November 7, Lindstrøm was left alone in Framheim until mid-December, when the East Party returned. In January, the South Pole Party also returned, and on January 30, they were all on board Fram and beginning their journey towards Hobart and civilization.
On departure, Amundsen wrote in his diary:
“It was very hard to leave Framheim. A more splendid and cozy winter home was had by no one. When we left, L. had cleaned it from inside to out and it looked radiant. We should not get disorder and mischief, if anyone should come there to see it.“ 📜
After Lindstrøm cleaned the place up, Framheim was never again visited or reported seen. From 1928 to the 1950s, the area was visited several times by the American Richard E. Byrd. He established a series of wintering stations – named Little America – just north of where Framheim was located, but he never described seeing Framheim or any trace of it.
It is therefore likely that Framheim was buried permanently by snow before Byrd arrived. Between 1957 and 1962, what Amundsen had feared but was confident enough to risk finally happened – the ice on which Framheim stood broke off. This led to both Framheim and Byrd’s bases drifting out to sea and disappearing forever.
In 2011, a full-scale reconstruction of Framheim was erected at Finse on Hardangervidda.📜
The polar ship Fram (meaning “forward” in Norwegian) was designed and built by Colin Archer for Fridtjof Nansen’s drift across the Arctic Ocean in 1893–96. The hull was constructed with a rounded bow so that it would be pushed up by the pressure of the Arctic sea ice instead of being crushed by it. It consisted of three layers of timber and was about 70 cm thick.
Type: three-masted schooner
Length: 39 m (130 ft)
Beam: 11 m (36 ft)
Draft (laden): 4.75 m (15 ft 8 in)
Total sail area: ca. 600 m² (6000 sq. ft)
Engine: Originally a steam engine of 220 horsepower (164 kW), but a diesel engine of 180 horsepower (134 kW) was fitted before Amundsen’s expedition in 1910.
Displacement (laden): 800 tons
Augmented Reality (AR)
Fram was used on Fridtjof Nansen’s drift across the Arctic Ocean (1893–96), Otto Sverdrup’s expedition to Arctic Canada (1898–1902) and Roald Amundsen’s expedition to Antarctica (1910–12).
After departing Antarctica in 1912, Fram sailed to Buenos Aires and then to Colón at the Atlantic entrance to the Panama Canal. In anticipation of being the first ship to sail through the canal, Fram lay for a long time waiting for it to be completed. When the opening was postponed, Fram returned to Norway and arrived in the summer of 1914. A lot of materials from Fram were used in the construction of Amundsen’s polar ship Maud, which began in 1917, but instead of breaking the ship up, it was decided during the 1920s that Fram should be restored and preserved. So, in 1935, Fram was hauled ashore at Bygdøy in Oslo, and in the following year the Fram museum opened.
Pennant with bag, Fram
This pennant from the polar ship Fram was found at Uranienborg.
1910–1912 Fram expedition
The Fram expedition required a varied selection of clothing and equipment. On the voyage they needed clothes that protected against waves and wind, but also thin clothes for when sailing through warm waters. For the party that spent the winter in Antarctica and embarked on long sledge rides, equipment was required that could both keep them warm, but also be easy to move in.
In the book about the expedition, Amundsen describes their separate set of thick wool underwear for cold temperatures, consisting of:
- 2 thick hand-knitted wool undershirts
- 6 pairs of knitted stockings
- Icelanders (knitted sweaters)
- Lighter undershirt
- Socks and stockings from “Tugthuset” (Kristiania’s prison for women)
- Sealskin suit from Greenland
- Anoraks sewn from blankets donated by the Navy stores in Horten
- Additional equipment from the Army depots
In addition, they had
- Sealskin suits from Greenland
- Anoraks sewn from blankets donated by the Navy stores in Horten
- Additional equipment from the Army depots
Amundsen donated the clothes and equipment he had used during the expedition to the Ski Museum now at Holmenkollen. This collection also contains clothes used by Olav Bjaaland and Hjalmar Johansen.
Amundsen, Roald: “Sydpolen : den norske sydpolsfærd med Fram 1910-1912”, 1912. 📜
Amundsen, Roald: “The South Pole : an account of the Norwegian Antarctic expedition in the Fram 1910-1912”, 1912. 📜
Skimuseet i Holmenkollen: “Roald Amundsens Sydpolekspedisjon 1910-1912” på Digitaltmuseum.no