Lessons from the Arctic: How Roald Amundsen won the race to the South Pole

Roald Amundsen with his dog and ship Fram in the days before leaving for the secret expedition to attempt the South Polenear his home at Svartskog, Norway. Image: Photographer Anders Beer Wilse, June 1910, courtesy Fram Museum.

Roald Amundsen with his dog Pan and ship Fram near his home at Svartskog, Norway in the days before leaving for the secret expedition to attempt the South Pole near his home at Svartskog, Norway. Image: Photographer Anders Beer Wilse, June 1910, courtesy Fram Museum.

‘Race to the Pole – Captain Scott successful’ claimed The Age’s headline writer on 8 March 1912, the day after Norwegian adventurer Captain Roald Amundsen slipped quietly into Hobart in his polar ship Fram. The headline was in hindsight tragically way off the mark but it was not a deliberate ‘alternative fact’ of its day splashed across the established masthead. It was more an excited assumption based on expectation in the former British colonies of Australia and a misreading of Amundsen’s Nordic reserve on his arrival there after 16 months in Antarctica in his well-publicised contest with British naval Captain Robert Falcon Scott.

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Sailing, Spacemen and underpants

Alex Whitworth on board Berrimilla II, June 2013 Photographer: Nicole Cama, ANMM

Alex Whitworth on board Berrimilla II, June 2013
Photographer: Nicole Cama, ANMM Instagram

It was a warm evening at the Courthouse Hotel in the Sydney suburb of Newtown where, by sheer coincidence, I met Eleanor Whitworth. We were “drinking about museums” when she bashfully explained a family joke about how her Dad’s underwear is held at the Australian National Maritime Museum, and they’d chuckle about it every time they passed by the museum.* Perplexed and somewhat embarrassed, I realised this was yet another part of the collection I was yet to stumble across. This is where her father comes into the story. Meet sailor, adventurer and lover of all things Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy – Alex Whitworth. Continue reading