Statue of a man seen from behind with mountain beyond
History,  Norway,  Postcards from the road

A postcard from Norway: Roald Amundsen

Roald Amundsen

Statue of a man seen from behind with mountain beyond

Statue of Roald Amundsen in Tromsø

In Britain Amundsen is somewhat notorious as the guy who beat Captain Scott to the South Pole. In Norway however, and especially in Tromsø, he is regarded as a national hero. His achievements came just after Norway had become independent from Sweden and helped to put the new nation on the world stage.

Amundsen succeeded where Scott failed because he better understood the polar environment and how to deal with the challenges it posed. Like the Inuit of the Arctic he wore furs rather than woollen clothing, and relied on dogs rather than horses. However our guide for a city walk in Tromsø told us that he wasn’t an easy person to work with, or for. Like many driven individuals he was overbearing and intolerant. But without those characteristics, would have achieved all that he did?

Amundsen disappeared on 18th June 1928 while flying on a mission to rescue the missing crew members from the airship Italia. His plane never returned and his body and those of his team were never found. Later a fuel tank from the plane washed up near Tromsø and is today on display in the town’s Polar Museum.


  • pattimoed

    It’s great hearing the “other side of the story.” A hero in one country might be a “villan” in another. I enjoyed your story very much.

  • Amy

    I wonder the same thing, “without those characteristics, would have achieved all that he did?”
    Thank you for sharing with us, Sarah!

  • Easymalc

    Amundsen was truly a great explorer wasn’t he? As a sidenote, if you haven’t already been, it’s worth visiting the Fram Museum in Oslo. Have a great trip! 🙂

  • restlessjo

    I was very naughty and had a giggle to myself because the image brought to mind Han Solo in the Star wars adventures. Sorry, Sarah! A serious subject and one I know nothing about. It all looks horribly cold.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Yes – I’d read about him from the perspective of the failed Scott expedition but not thought much about the other side and especially the timing when Norwegian national pride was so strong but so embryonic.


    Funnily enough we met some girls from Tromso while we were in Cambodia…at the bamboo railway in fact. The brief conversation we had with them was enough for us to put Tromso on our list. I am therefore keen to hear more!

    • Sarah Wilkie

      As long as you don’t come for the weather it’s a fascinating place to visit! Our guide on the city tour was actually Canadian, from near Vancouver, and she told us she came seven years ago to study for six months and as she put it ‘got stuck, as people tend to do’. I personally couldn’t get stuck somewhere with this climate and no sun or proper daylight for three months of the year, but clearly it’s a place that captivates certain people!

  • Alli Templeton

    I hadn’t known any of this – how fascinating! Amundsen sounds quite a character and, as you say, these difficult personality traits are probably what enabled him to achieve so much. Strange how he disappeared, it sounds very similar to how Glenn Miller vanished, but I suppose with the kind of person he was it was quite a fitting end. Great photo of his statue. 🙂

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thanks Alli 😊 Yes, his disappearance was strange but in those climates (and in the relatively early days of flying) probably not too surprising. What I didn’t mention, because I like to keep these pieces brief, was that the other explorers he was looking for were subse all found to be safe.

      • Alli Templeton

        Ah yes, that would make sense. Intriguing and ironic though that the others were found safe and well.

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