On December 14, 1911, Roald Amundsen, one of the greatest figures in polar exploration, became the first person to reach the South Pole. Beating out his British rival Robert Falcon Scott, Amundsen sailed to Antarctica’s Bay of Whales before beginning the expedition, which ended with him reaching the South Pole.
Born on June 16, 1872, Amundsen’s life as an explorer included being the first to transit the Northwest Passage. He guided his 47-ton sloop through the Northwest Passage and around the Canadian coast during 1903-1905.
In 1897, he was the first mate on a Belgium expedition, among the first to winter in the Antarctic. He planned, in 1909, to be the first to reach the North Pole. However, he learned that he lost the honor to American Robert Peary.
In 1911, after sailing his ship to the Bay of Whales, he set up base camp 60 miles closer to the South Pole than his rival, Robert Falcon Scott, did. While Scott used dogs, Siberian motor sleds and Siberian ponies, Amundsen used only sleigh dogs to reach the South Pole. Amundsen bested his rival, whose frozen body was found less than 11 miles from his camp, by one month.
He also was the first person to fly an airship over the North Pole, which he accomplished in 1926.
Roald Amundsen died on June 18, 1928 while attempting to rescue a fellow explorer at sea.