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Passing the Winter 1911

Part of the Race to the End of the Earth exhibition.

Waiting For Antarctic "Spring'" To Launch Journey

Passing The Winter, 1911

Amundsen and his men passed the winter at Framheim working on necessary tasks and improving their equipment. At night they read books, played cards, or engaged in the ritual of the Saturday night sauna. The dogs roamed free and some even disappeared for a few days, but only a few failed to return. Amundsen assumed they fell into crevasses.

On August 24, the sun finally appeared above the horizon for the first time since April. This was the day Amundsen had thought to begin the run for the South Pole. He was familiar with how quickly the Arctic warmed up at the beginning of spring.

Like Scott, he didn't adequately comprehend that "spring" and "fall" do not exist in Antarctica as lengthy periods bounding summer and winter. But with temperatures approaching -72°F (-58°C), Amundsen knew the dogs would have a difficult time, and Johansen warned against starting out so soon.

So day after day he postponed the start, and grew more restless with every lost moment. "The thought of the English gave him no peace," one of the crew later noted. "For if we were not first at the Pole, we might just as well stay home."

Another remarked, "I'd give something to know how far Scott is today."

"Oh, he's not out yet, bless you!" came the answer. "It's much too cold for his ponies."