Roald Amundsen

1st Professional Arctic & Antarctic Explorer

“Adventure is just bad planning.”—Roald Amundsen

Roald Engelbregt Gravning Amundsen [1872 to 1928]

Picture of Explorer Roald Amundsen

Roald Amundsen was a Key Expedition Leader during the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration. Amundsen along with his British Rivals Robert Scott & Ernest Shackleton were the 3 Most Celebrated Explorers of the time. Amundsen was certainly the Most Successful & Professional of the 3.

Amundsen was a Norwegian Explorer who grew up in a nautical family and learned his initial exploration skills as 2nd Mate on the Belgian Antarctic Expedition (1897-1899). By his estimates this poorly equipped expedition only Survived though the Doctor's insistence that they hunt and then fed the crew the fresh meat they caught.

He was the 1st European to Traverse the Northwest Passage in his Boat, the Gjøa between 1903 & 1906. It was on this expedition that he learned many of explorations skills he would use later on his trip to the South Pole as he wintered in 1903 with the Inuit of King Williams Island. During this period he learned from and about the local Inuit. He took up wearing the Inuit excellently constructed caribou skin parka system and learned dog sledding skills.

The winter survival, winter travel, expedition logistic, and expedition leadership skills Amundsen learned during this period were very important in his later success and survival. These were skills that Robert Scott never learned and Amundsen always the professional mastered. That winter he led a dog sled journey to make measurements that determined the location of the North Magnetic Pole.

“The English have loudly and openly told the world that ski and dogs are unusable in these regions and that fur clothes are rubbish. We will see – we will see.”
—Roald Amundsen

Amundsen expertly led the first successful Antarctic expedition to the South Pole between 1910 and 1912. His Small Teams of Himself & 4 Team Members, backed up initially by 52 Sled Dogs Reached the South Pole on December 14th, 1911. His expedition to the South Pole was skillfully planned by a professional who left nothing to chance and he certainly understood how to motivate his team to succeed.

“…the way in which the expedition is equipped…precautions taken for meeting or avoiding it. Victory awaits him who has everything in order…Defeat is certain for him who has neglected to take the necessary precautions…”
—The South Pole, Roald Amundsen

He was also the first person to reach both the North and South Poles. In later life he organized and led a number of expeditions. Amundsen disappeared in the Barents Sea on June 18th, 1928 while taking part in a rescue mission of another explorer. It is believed that the plane he was in crashed in fog and Amundsen was killed either in the crash or shortly afterwards. His body was never found.

Roald Amundsen was the 1st Truly Professional Arctic & Antarctic Explorer. His exploits and planning skills are both marvelled at and practiced today. Scott and the British lost the race to the South Pole. They lost because they had not mastered the skills need to travel in a harsh environment and because they took chances that Amundsen did not have to due to his and his Expedition Members Skills, Training, & Preparation.

Article by (, Updated 3rd January 2015)
Chief Instructor of the Boreal Wilderness Institute