1903-06 Gjøa expedition

Crew

The crew of Gjøa originally consisted of eight individuals, many of whom were skilled sailors with Arctic Ocean experience.

Andreas Pedersen was initially hired as steward but dismissed just before departure. Second engineer Gustav Juel Wiik fell ill during the expedition and died in 1906. Along with the original crew, several local Inuit and visiting hunters and traders played crucial roles in the expedition’s journey through the Northwest Passage.

Roald Amundsen. Captain and expedition leader
Andreas Pedersen. Steward (dismissed before departure)

Gjøa purchase contract, 19.1.1901

Object reference:

Type: Contract

Sender / Author: Hans Christian Johannesen

Recipient: Roald Amundsen

Date: 19.1.1901

Language: Norwegian

🔍Large image

Translation

Copy

Purchase contract.

The undersigned Captain H.C. Johannesen and Captain Roald Amundsen hereby jointly declare today that they have entered into this contract.
I H.C. Johannessen hereby sell to Mr. Roald Amundsen my own hunting vessel “Gjøa” with its now associated inventory, Arctic hunting gear and casks, 2 – two – hunting boats and 1 – one – stern boat all in good safe condition for a purchase price of Kr. 9750 – nine thousand seven hundred and fifty kroner – whereof Kr. 2750 – two thousand seven hundred and fifty kroner – payable before the end of January, Kr. 2000  – two thousand kroner – by Mr. Amundsen’s arrival in Tromsø, and upon the ship’s takeover, the remaining amount Kr. 5000 – five thousand kroner – payable to Mr. Merchant Poul Figenschou with Kr. 1,000 per year <at> 5% interest, the first time.
I Roald Amundsen undertake to provide a sufficient self-debtor’s surety for Kr. 5,000 – five thousand kroner.
I H.C. Johannessen guarantee the vessel is free of encumbrances and the title is in order.
Authenticated Tromsø 19. Jan. 1901.

                                          H.C. Johannesen

Related resources

1903-06 Gjøa expedition. Photograph album

These photographs from the Gjøa expedition were discovered in a chest in an outbuilding at Uranienborg in 2015.📜 They show the crew on board Gjøa and on a sledge journey, and several of the Inuit Amundsen met during the expedition. We still don’t know the full story behind this album and why these particular prints were made.

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Related resources

1872
Roald Amundsen born July 16
1880
Starts at Otto Andersen’s School
1886
Jens Engebreth Amundsen dies
1887 – 1889
Polar interest aroused
1890
Starting university
1893
Gustava Amundsen (née. Sahlqvist) dies
1893
Mountain ski tour with Urdahl and Holst
1894
Hunting in Arctic waters with the Magdalena
1895
Ship’s Officer’s exam
1896
Hardangervidda with Leon
1897 – 1899
Belgica expedition
1899
Cycling from Christiania to Paris
1900
Studying geomagnetism in Hamburg
1903 – 1906
Gjøa expedition
1903 – 1906
1903-06 Gjøa expedition. Photograph album
1907
Polar bears as draft animals
1908
Amundsen buys Uranienborg
1909
The North Pole reached?
1910 – 1912
Fram expedition
1914
Amundsen becomes a pilot
1916 – 1917
The polar ship Maud is being built
1918
Maud expedition
1922
Nita and Camilla move in
1923
Uranienborg for sale
1924
Amundsen goes bankrupt
1925
To 88 degrees north
1926
Norge expedition
1927
Lecture tour in Japan
1928
Latham flight
1934 – 1935
Uranienborg becomes a museum
1938
Betty’s house burns down
2015
A chest full of photographs is discovered
2020
Roald Amundsen’s home goes digital

Letter, 31.7.1925, from Fridtjof Bryde

Object reference: RA 318B13

Type: Letter

Sender / Author: Fridtjof Bryde

Recipient: Roald Amundsen

Date: 31.7.1925

Language: Norwegian

Translation

LOS ANGELES, CAL …31st July 1925 –

Dear Mr AMUNDSEN, –

                            I don’t know whether you will still remember the undersigned [me], as a little boy the time you visited Sandefjord, and thus my parents’ home on the return from the Northwest Passage; – but I remember it as clearly as if it where today. It will perhaps interest you to hear, that I still have in my possession book no. 610 from my father’s collection – he had around 2000 volumes,  – this was titled “A mad world”, and has the signatures of those who passed through the N.W. Passage with “Gjøa”. Father gave me the book on my birthday many years ago. As you may know, he sadly died on the 24th of May – albeit after a year-long and painful illness, so it came as rather a relief.

                            Why I am today taking the liberty of writing to you is in order to offer you my services in Los Angeles, Cal., as I assume that you will also honour this city with a visit when you come to the States to give your interesting account of the adventurous journey.

During the war I lived in Oslo, where I ran a large shipping company with a branch office in New York, in which several of Norway’s larger shipowners were had interests. But unfortunately, I, like several of my family, among them G.M. Bryde, formerly of the Norway-Mexico Gulf Line, etc., lost all our money and business. This was during the great crisis of 1921/22. I have now teamed up with uncle G.M. Bryde, and we run a modest business in shipping and timber in Mexico, where G.M.B. has been granted concessions. It’s going slowly though, – from hand to mouth, but I have faith in the possibilities. I should add that I am married (b. Forseth, daughter of factory owner Forseth, Chra. Glasmagasin), and have my home here. –

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Mr Roald Amundsen.            #2.

                            I have many good friends and connections in the city, and could easily arrange your lecture here, thus hire of premises, advance advertising, etc., and would feel only most honoured to be entrusted with your arrangements here, at the same time, I believe that you will be able to have full confidence in everything that will be done in this case. I don’t know what the conditions are, whether you intend to give one or more lectures, the cost of the entrance, etc., but I can in any case, with the necessary guidance from you, make all the arrangements in advance, secure a suitable venue, etc. I might have to do everything on your account, and would only reckon for myself a modest fee for the work and time. You would be able to count on an exceptionally large audience here, especially if the entrance is set low, – $1 – or so and flat, the city is a residential one with approx. 1,000,000 inhabitants, a large percentage of whom have the time and means to attend. You could easily either rent the city’s largest venue, or also – if a Sunday fitted your itinerary – the famous Hollywood Bowl, which is nature’s very own concert venue – a circle-shaped hollow in the mountain with natural acoustics, and where approx. 25,000 people daily attend the most excellent symphony concerts. This could probably be obtained for a Sunday morning. I would follow your instructions in all respects. Quite frankly, I do not hide the fact that apart from the great personal interest and joy I would gain from arranging this for you, so would the assignment  – especially if you would grant me a percentage basis, – mean

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a more than welcome financial support for me. –

                            Based on the friendship that always existed between you and my father, and the unshakable confidence he always had in you and your undertakings, I hope that you will not hold this letter against me; but be able to honour me with your prompt, favourable reply.

                            At the same time, I add my very best congratulations on the occasion of the just-completed deed, an illuminating adventure story for everyone about courage and spirit – and which for the rest of us in a wearisome time – makes us happy again to bear the label Norwegian.

With my respectful regards,

Yours

Fridtjof Bryde

P.S.       Should you find the opportunity to use my proposal, then for business reasons I will ask you to write to me in English. –

                                                         D.S. FB

                        [In a different hand] Organized by Keedick

Related resources

1872
Roald Amundsen born July 16
1880
Starts at Otto Andersen’s School
1886
Jens Engebreth Amundsen dies
1887 – 1889
Polar interest aroused
1890
Starting university
1893
Gustava Amundsen (née. Sahlqvist) dies
1893
Mountain ski tour with Urdahl and Holst
1894
Hunting in Arctic waters with the Magdalena
1895
Ship’s Officer’s exam
1896
Hardangervidda with Leon
1897 – 1899
Belgica expedition
1899
Cycling from Christiania to Paris
1900
Studying geomagnetism in Hamburg
1903 – 1906
Gjøa expedition
1907
Polar bears as draft animals
1908
Amundsen buys Uranienborg
1909
The North Pole reached?
1910 – 1912
Fram expedition
1914
Amundsen becomes a pilot
1916 – 1917
The polar ship Maud is being built
1918
Maud expedition
1922
Nita and Camilla move in
1923
Uranienborg for sale
1924
Amundsen goes bankrupt
1925
To 88 degrees north
1925
Letter, 31.7.1925, from Fridtjof Bryde
1926
Norge expedition
1927
Lecture tour in Japan
1928
Latham flight
1934 – 1935
Uranienborg becomes a museum
1938
Betty’s house burns down
2015
A chest full of photographs is discovered
2020
Roald Amundsen’s home goes digital

Medal with portrait photo

Objectnumber: RA 0294

Materials: metal, fabric

Text: Nordvestpassasjens seierherre 8. November 1907 (The conqueror of the Northwest Passage November 8, 1907)

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1872
Roald Amundsen born July 16
1880
Starts at Otto Andersen’s School
1886
Jens Engebreth Amundsen dies
1887 – 1889
Polar interest aroused
1890
Starting university
1893
Gustava Amundsen (née. Sahlqvist) dies
1893
Mountain ski tour with Urdahl and Holst
1894
Hunting in Arctic waters with the Magdalena
1895
Ship’s Officer’s exam
1896
Hardangervidda with Leon
1897 – 1899
Belgica expedition
1899
Cycling from Christiania to Paris
1900
Studying geomagnetism in Hamburg
1903 – 1906
Gjøa expedition
1907
Polar bears as draft animals
1907
Medal with portrait photo
1908
Amundsen buys Uranienborg
1909
The North Pole reached?
1910 – 1912
Fram expedition
1914
Amundsen becomes a pilot
1916 – 1917
The polar ship Maud is being built
1918
Maud expedition
1922
Nita and Camilla move in
1923
Uranienborg for sale
1924
Amundsen goes bankrupt
1925
To 88 degrees north
1926
Norge expedition
1927
Lecture tour in Japan
1928
Latham flight
1934 – 1935
Uranienborg becomes a museum
1938
Betty’s house burns down
2015
A chest full of photographs is discovered
2020
Roald Amundsen’s home goes digital

Photo, Professor Neumayer

Objectnumber: RA 0194

Width photograph: 16.4 cm

Height photograph:  10.7 cm

Width frame: 17.0 cm

Height frame: 11.0 cm

Depth frame: 3.0 cm
Materials: glass, paper, metal

Amundsen studied earth magnetism under Professor Georg von Neumayer at the Deutsche Seewarte in Hamburg, September 1900.

The picture was a gift from Dr. Neumayer and is signed with:

“Herrn Roald Amundsen zur freundlichen Errinnerung an seinen Aufenthalt an der Seewarte (1 October – 16 November 1900) von Dr. Neumayer. Nöge es Herrn Amundsen beschieden sein, den Flan sur Bestinmung der Lage des magnetischen Nordpoles Der Erde mit einem glänsenden Erfolge durch su führen. Dr. Neumayer. Hamburg, den 16 November 1900“.

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Click on the logo to explore the photograph.
1872
Roald Amundsen born July 16
1880
Starts at Otto Andersen’s School
1886
Jens Engebreth Amundsen dies
1887 – 1889
Polar interest aroused
1890
Starting university
1893
Gustava Amundsen (née. Sahlqvist) dies
1893
Mountain ski tour with Urdahl and Holst
1894
Hunting in Arctic waters with the Magdalena
1895
Ship’s Officer’s exam
1896
Hardangervidda with Leon
1897 – 1899
Belgica expedition
1899
Cycling from Christiania to Paris
1900
Studying geomagnetism in Hamburg
1900
Photo, Professor Neumayer
1903 – 1906
Gjøa expedition
1907
Polar bears as draft animals
1908
Amundsen buys Uranienborg
1909
The North Pole reached?
1910 – 1912
Fram expedition
1914
Amundsen becomes a pilot
1916 – 1917
The polar ship Maud is being built
1918
Maud expedition
1922
Nita and Camilla move in
1923
Uranienborg for sale
1924
Amundsen goes bankrupt
1925
To 88 degrees north
1926
Norge expedition
1927
Lecture tour in Japan
1928
Latham flight
1934 – 1935
Uranienborg becomes a museum
1938
Betty’s house burns down
2015
A chest full of photographs is discovered
2020
Roald Amundsen’s home goes digital

“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 📜.

Treasure hunting at Uranienborg is always an exciting affair, and in 2015 this chest full of documents and photos was found in a storeroom. Photo: Follo museum, MiA.

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.

Paper positives from the Fram expedition that lay hidden in the chest. Photo: Follo museum, MiA.

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.

One of many photographs of the Netsilik Inuit. Photo: Follo museum, MiA.
Roald Amundsen, Helmer Hanssen, Sverre Hassel and Oscar Wisting saluting the Norwegian flag at the South Pole in December, 1911. The photo was taken by Olav Bjaaland. Photo: Follo museum, MiA.

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📜

Portrait of Roald Amundsen. Photo: Follo museum, MiA.
Program from one of Amundsen’s war lectures in 1918. Photo: Follo museum, MiA.

Related resources

1872
Roald Amundsen born July 16
1880
Starts at Otto Andersen’s School
1886
Jens Engebreth Amundsen dies
1887 – 1889
Polar interest aroused
1890
Starting university
1893
Gustava Amundsen (née. Sahlqvist) dies
1893
Mountain ski tour with Urdahl and Holst
1894
Hunting in Arctic waters with the Magdalena
1895
Ship’s Officer’s exam
1896
Hardangervidda with Leon
1897 – 1899
Belgica expedition
1899
Cycling from Christiania to Paris
1900
Studying geomagnetism in Hamburg
1903 – 1906
Gjøa expedition
1907
Polar bears as draft animals
1908
Amundsen buys Uranienborg
1909
The North Pole reached?
1910 – 1912
Fram expedition
1914
Amundsen becomes a pilot
1916 – 1917
The polar ship Maud is being built
1918
Maud expedition
1922
Nita and Camilla move in
1923
Uranienborg for sale
1924
Amundsen goes bankrupt
1925
To 88 degrees north
1926
Norge expedition
1927
Lecture tour in Japan
1928
Latham flight
1934 – 1935
Uranienborg becomes a museum
1938
Betty’s house burns down
2015
A chest full of photographs is discovered
2015
“Treasure chest” found at Uranienborg
2020
Roald Amundsen’s home goes digital

1903-06 Gjøa expedition

The story of the Gjøa expedition will appear here soon.

In the meantime, you can explore our resources related to this expedition.

Gjøa expedition

1872
Roald Amundsen born July 16
1880
Starts at Otto Andersen’s School
1886
Jens Engebreth Amundsen dies
1887 – 1889
Polar interest aroused
1890
Starting university
1893
Gustava Amundsen (née. Sahlqvist) dies
1893
Mountain ski tour with Urdahl and Holst
1894
Hunting in Arctic waters with the Magdalena
1895
Ship’s Officer’s exam
1896
Hardangervidda with Leon
1897 – 1899
Belgica expedition
1899
Cycling from Christiania to Paris
1900
Studying geomagnetism in Hamburg
1903 – 1906
Gjøa expedition
1903 – 1906
1903–06 Gjøa expedition
1907
Polar bears as draft animals
1908
Amundsen buys Uranienborg
1909
The North Pole reached?
1910 – 1912
Fram expedition
1914
Amundsen becomes a pilot
1916 – 1917
The polar ship Maud is being built
1918
Maud expedition
1922
Nita and Camilla move in
1923
Uranienborg for sale
1924
Amundsen goes bankrupt
1925
To 88 degrees north
1926
Norge expedition
1927
Lecture tour in Japan
1928
Latham flight
1934 – 1935
Uranienborg becomes a museum
1938
Betty’s house burns down
2015
A chest full of photographs is discovered
2020
Roald Amundsen’s home goes digital

Photo, Fridtjof Nansen

Objectnumber: RA 0332

Width frame: 33.0 cm

Height frame: 45.0 cm

Depth frame: 2.2 cm
Materials: glass, wood, paper

Portrait of Fridtjof Nansen that Amundsen took with him on the Gjøa expedition and later hung on the wall of his home at Uranienborg.

Fridtjof Nansen was one of Amundsen’s great sources of inspiration. He had high status as a polar explorer after his expeditions across Greenland in 1888 and over the Arctic Ocean in 1893–96.

The photo hung onboard in the lounge of the Gjøa during the journey through the Northwest Passage. When the expedition had safely sailed through, Amundsen stood and looked at the portrait.

“It seemed as if the picture had come to life, as if he winked at me, nodding, ‘Just what I thought, my boy!’ I nodded back, smiling and happy, and went on deck.”

Nansen signed the picture, ʺTo Captain Roald Amundsen with wishes of good luck and progress on the journey from his friend Fridtjof Nansen, June 16, 1903.ʺ

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Click on the logo to explore the photograph.
1872
Roald Amundsen born July 16
1880
Starts at Otto Andersen’s School
1886
Jens Engebreth Amundsen dies
1887 – 1889
Polar interest aroused
1890
Starting university
1893
Gustava Amundsen (née. Sahlqvist) dies
1893
Mountain ski tour with Urdahl and Holst
1894
Hunting in Arctic waters with the Magdalena
1895
Ship’s Officer’s exam
1896
Hardangervidda with Leon
1897 – 1899
Belgica expedition
1899
Cycling from Christiania to Paris
1900
Studying geomagnetism in Hamburg
1903 – 1906
Gjøa expedition
1903
Photo, Fridtjof Nansen
1907
Polar bears as draft animals
1908
Amundsen buys Uranienborg
1909
The North Pole reached?
1910 – 1912
Fram expedition
1914
Amundsen becomes a pilot
1916 – 1917
The polar ship Maud is being built
1918
Maud expedition
1922
Nita and Camilla move in
1923
Uranienborg for sale
1924
Amundsen goes bankrupt
1925
To 88 degrees north
1926
Norge expedition
1927
Lecture tour in Japan
1928
Latham flight
1934 – 1935
Uranienborg becomes a museum
1938
Betty’s house burns down
2015
A chest full of photographs is discovered
2020
Roald Amundsen’s home goes digital

Amundsen’s dogs

Uranienborg has been home to several dogs. Some participated in expeditions, while others guarded the house when Amundsen was travelling.

Dog collar found at Uranienborg. To which dog it belonged is unknown. Photo: Follo museum, MiA.

Rex

Saint Bernard. Rex was probably the first dog Amundsen had at Uranienborg. There are photographs of him from 1910 and 1913, but we don’t know how long he lived.

Amundsen and Rex outside Uranienborg. Photo: Follo museum, MiA.

Obersten, Lucie and Storm

Greenland Dogs. These were the three dogs that returned to Norway after the South Pole trip, of whom Obersten (The Colonel) was the only one to have been on the sledge journey all the way to the pole.

When the dogs arrived from Buenos Aires in Kristiania on February 10, 1913, they were met by veterinarian Anker-Nielsen. With two young assistants, he escorted the trio through the city, followed by a crowd who wanted to see the famous South Pole dogs. For a while they were housed at the vet’s but were eventually moved out to Svartskog. Later in 1913, Lucie and Storm went to Svalbard to participate in a several-month-long sledge expedition led by Arve Staxrud. Obersten, on the other hand, became a major attraction at dog shows and received several prizes and diplomas.

The diploma Obersten received after receiving “1st Prize in the Open Class and Honorary Prize” in a 1913 dog show. Photo: Follo museum, MiA.
Obersten photographed by Anders Beer Wilse after the homecoming from Antarctica. Photo: Follo museum, MiA.

At Svartskog, Obersten met Rex, who had guarded the house while Obersten and Amundsen were in Antarctica.

Obersten (left) meets Rex in summer 1913. Photo: Follo museum, MiA.

After her stay in Svalbard, Lucie returned to Svartskog and Uranienborg, while Storm was looked after by South Pole explorer Sverre Hassel. Hassel took Storm around Norway on a lecture tour about the South Pole journey. Storm was one of the lecture’s attractions and appeared with harness and equipment.

Advertisement for Sverre Hassel’s South Pole lecture where Storm was shown in harness.
Source: The newspaper Nordkapp. 30.1.1914 / National Library of Norway.

Since Roald Amundsen travelled a lot, the dog team at Uranienborg was mostly left to his brother Leon and his family and Jørgen Stubberud. In October, Leon Amundsen was taking some fresh air with Obersten and Lucie when they both ran away. Lucie was reported missing in the newspaper and a reward offered for anyone returning her. In the newspaper she was described as “Steel gray, pointed head, wise playful eyes, of size somewhat larger than an Elkhound, responds to her name”. Both were later returned.

In the summer of 1914, Obersten and Lucie left Svartskog. According to the newspapers, it had become too expensive for Amundsen to have them there while they constantly supplied themselves with the local sheep and other animals. Obersten went to the Wistings in Horten and Lucie was sent to an unknown family outside the city. Lucie and Obersten had several puppies. One died of what was described as puppy disease, another was run over by the Holmenkoll tram and a third was adopted by a lawyer named Manskow. In her old age, Lucie was taken in by the Salvation Army as a watchdog for the rest of her life, but we don’t know when she died.

Obersten enjoyed life in Horten and gradually became a familiar sight in the town, especially with the local butcher. Wisting describes Obersten’s latter days in the book “16 years with Roald Amundsen” (1930): “It is an old saying that when a wise man grows old, he goes to a monastery, so also with ‘Obersten’. He went to the Salvation Army. Outside their premises, he sat every night in all kinds of weather, listening devoutly to the speeches, the singing, and the music. Finally, his time was up. It was as if I had lost one of my loved ones, so much did I miss him.” 📜

Obersten probably died around 1919-1920. When the Ski Museum was to be established at Frognerseteren (since moved to Holmenkollen), Obersten’s pelt was retrieved and the dog stuffed. He is on display there today, together with Amundsen’s equipment from the South Pole expedition.

Obersten on display in the Ski Museum at Holmenkollen, together with other equipment from the South Pole expedition. Photo: Skimuseet i Holmenkollen.

Romeo and Julie

The Saint Bernards Romeo and Julie lived at Uranienborg in the 1920s. Journalists visiting the polar hero would report that the dogs seemed intimidating when they came barking, but that Amundsen had good control over them. Julie had several puppies, but we know little about where they ended up.

Romeo and Juliet filmed in the spring of 1922 at home at Uranienborg. Amundsen meets them on the stairs and Nita and Camilla play with them in the garden. Film: National Library of Norway.

Nicodemus

Mixed breed. He was never at Uranienborg, but Nicodemus still features promimently in the house. Nicodemus met Amundsen in Eagle City in 1906 and accompanied him on the sledge journey back to the Gjøa at King Point. A mix between the local sled dogs and a Saint Bernard, he sank through the snow more easily than the others but still followed Amundsen all the way and was taken on board the Gjøa. The newspapers reported that Nicodemus would stay with the expedition all the way to New York, but he disappeared after the Gjøa reached San Francisco. The crew is said to have honoured him with a toast. At home at Uranienborg, Amundsen hung a photograph of Nicodemus in a handmade frame on the wall of the blue living room.

Photo: Follo museum, MiA.

Sources:

Tahan, Mary R. : Roald Amundsen’s Sled Dogs (Springer, 2019) , The Return of the South Pole Sled Dogs (Springer, 2021).