Just like skiing on the Hardanger Plateau

“A superficial reading might lead one to believe that an expedition to the South Pole is no more challenging than a ski jaunt through Nordmarken or perhaps over the Hardanger Plateau.”
Stein P. Aasheim, Harald Dag Jølle and Jan-Gunnar WintherThree men, well pleased after nearly 30 kilometres on skis. Photo: Norwegian Polar Institute

The words are those of a member of the Norwegian parliament (Stortinget) writing in 1912, who considered Amundsen’s tone too unassuming: “Insofar as I can judge, accomplishing such a feat as this demands nearly herculean strength.”

Amundsen’s style and the success of his expedition meant that he did not write the dramatic sagas that otherwise abound in polar history. Nansen, for instance, came home with completely different tales of adventure.

Much of the terrain Amundsen passed through 100 years ago lends itself poorly to drama. Endless plains that can only be described as flat, flat, and then flat. Today we have skied 27.5 kilometres and have seen nothing but snow and the curvature of the Earth. Sunshine, clear skies, dead calm, and -32°C. Those comparisons with the Hardanger Plateau are perhaps not too far off the mark. But we know – as did the member of parliament – that they don’t provide a complete picture of a trip to the South Pole.

S 79 34.469, W 165 10.787
Temp: -32°C
Wind: Calm
Distance traversed: 27.5 km