Aircraft, shipbuilding and war lectures
In 1913, Roald Amundsen gets to experience his first aeroplane ride, when he sits alongside pilot Silas Christofferson for a flight over San Francisco Bay. After landing he is very excited, and the following year he completes pilot training under the leadership of Norwegian military pilot Einar Sem-Jacobsen. Amundsen is the first in Norway to obtain a civil pilot’s licence in summer 1914.
For his upcoming expedition across the Arctic Ocean, Amundsen realizes that the Fram cannot be used, so construction begins on a new polar ship that will be launched in June 1917. Amundsen names the ship with a lump of ice and not the usual champagne: “It is not my intention to mock the noble grape. But already now you should feel a little of your rightful element. Because for the ice you are built, and in the ice you will spend your best time, and there you will achieve your mission. With our queen’s permission, I will baptize you MAUD.”
In October 1917, however, Amundsen appears in the newspapers for another reason, when he returns all his German decorations in protest against German attacks on Norwegian sailors.
To His Excellency
the German minister in Kristiania.
As a Norwegian sailor, allow me to return my German decorations – the Prussian Order of the Crown, first class, the Bavarian Luitpold medal, and His Majesty Emperor Wilhelm’s gold medal for art and science – as a personal protest against the German murders of peaceful sailors, most recently in the North Sea on the 17th of October, 1917.
In January 1918, Amundsen travels to the front lines in Western Europe. In the spring, he will give several lectures in the United States to encourage support for the Western powers’ efforts in the war.