Axel Heiberg

Words escape us. Even a seasoned adventurer falls silent when he looks around here. Modern-day superlatives like wicked cool, awesome, and insane spring to mind as our skis swish ever closer to the Axel Heiberg Glacier. Amundsen, understated as always, wrote, “It was a magnificent panorama that opened up.”
Campsite on the Axel Heiberg Glacier, Antarctica.Campsite on the Axel Heiberg Glacier. Photo: Norwegian Polar Institute

Ahead of us we see Amundsen’s Icefall. This steep segment got its name in the 1960s. It was here Amundsen and his men believed it must be possible to find a path onward and upward. “The first glacier was steep, but the second was a veritable road to heaven.” As usual, it was the man from Telemark who was sent out on reconnaissance. “It was a delight to watch Bjaaland on his skis up there. It was obvious that he had skied up a slope before.”

Of all the place-names in this area, Axel Heiberg – this mighty glacier – is undoubtedly the most renowned. It is an established concept among explorers and Antarctic aficionados. Heiberg was a Norwegian magnate who – along with the brothers Amund and Ellef Ringnes, of brewery fame – was a staunch supporter of Norwegian polar research. Nansen, Sverdrup, and Amundsen were all deeply indebted to them.

We also see mountains Amundsen didn’t name – such as Mount Gjelsvik, named in 1961–62 after one of Jan-Gunnar’s predecessors in the position of Director of the Norwegian Polar Institute.

Tomorrow, Amundsen’s Icefall awaits us. We are happy to be here – and look forward to testing whether our ability to conquer the slopes will match that of Bjaaland.

Position: S 85 24.527, W 163 39.874
Temperature: -13°C
Wind: Calm
Elevation: 700 metres
Distance traversed: 30 km
Distance behind Amundsen: 85 km
Total distance traversed: 738 km
Distance remaining to the South Pole: 573 km