How the First Expedition to Antarctica Almost Failed

This article was written by Phin Upham.

Roald Amundsen was a Norwegian explorer who had found fame by sailing the Northwest Passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific. In 1910, Amundson was preparing to lead an exploration into the Antarctic, his sights set on the most prestigious prize left in the world of exploration. The meticulously planned goal was to reach the South Pole, but the journey started with folly. Amundsen had been preparing for an expedition North, when he head that British explorer Robert Scott was headed South. So Amdundsen, sensing the competitive spirit, abruptly switched directions to pursue the South Pole.

He was so eager to reach his destination that he prematurely started, and lost valuable sledding and pack dogs in the snow. Several of his men also experienced frostbite, which ate an entire month’s worth of time from his schedule. One member of the team called the exploration “panic.” Many of the team left the exploration, but the few who remained formed a new team with new supply points.

Amundsen’s glaring errors are an intriguing answer to the long standing question of his personality and character. Long believed to be stoic and meticulous, these moments of doubt shed light on a man who was clearly driven by passion. He and Scott were both passionate explorers, who fought bitterly for every inch of territory they claimed on their way to be the first to the South pole.

Amundsen would go on to beat Scott, who’s team would freeze to death in the snow. The reason for the victory came down to preparation. Despite Amundsen’s false start, his preparations to go North had prepared him well for the harsh conditions in Antarctica.

About the Author: Phin Upham is an investor at a family office/hedgefund, where he focuses on special situation illiquid investing. Before this position, Phin Upham was working at Morgan Stanley in the Media & Technology group. You may contact Phin on his LinkedIn page.