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Olav Bjaaland

OLogy Series
ologist
card
324

Olav Bjaaland

OLogy Series
ologist

In the early 1900s, Olav Bjaaland was a skiing champion in Norway. In 1910, he joined famous explorer Roald Amundsen on an expedition to Antarctica. Bjaaland was a valuable team member, not just for his strength and skiing expertise, but also for his woodworking skills. In December 1911, he was a member of the team that first reach the South Pole.

To survive Antarctica's frigid cold, Bjaaland's leader Amundsen decided that the men should wear:

cotton

fur

wool

Are you right?

Correct!

Amundsen learned from the Inuit people while he lived in the Arctic. The Norwegian men wore furs based on Inuit designs: sealskin boots and reindeer-skin coats, mittens, and stockings. Sleeping bags were also made of reindeer skin. Even their leather eye goggles were based on an Inuit design!

During the trek to the South Pole, Bjaaland's dog team was nearly lost in a crevasse. A crevasse is a:

deep crack in the ice sheet

howling blizzard

strong current of frigid water

Are you right?

Correct!

Snow often hides these deep cracks in the ice sheet, so they are difficult to see. Violent snowstorms also made it difficult to navigate the vast plains.

As a child, Bjaaland had learned woodworking in order to make his own skis.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fact

Bjaaland was an expert with skis. In Antarctica, he carefully shaved down the wooden sleds used for the trek. He trimmed their weight by more than 9 kilogram (20 pounds) each!

Some Antarctic explorers suffered from "snow blindness," a kind of sunburn of the eyes.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fact

Snow blindness is temporary, but very painful. The men wore goggles to protect their eyes. Other dangers they faced were frostbite and malnutrition.

The ship that the Norwegian team sailed on, the Fram, was specially built for polar travel.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fact

The Fram, which means "forward," was spec- ially built to travel through sea ice. The ship's front, back, and bottom were rounded so the ship would be less likely to get stuck in the ice.

Lived: 1873-1961
Known for: Norwegian skiing champion and one of the first people to reach the South Pole.
Skills: athleticism, skiing expertise, woodworking
Cool Fact: After the expedition, Bjaaland returned to Norway, where he ran a ski factory. He devoted much of his life to skiing and ski-jumping until the age of 70! He was one of the last survivors of Amundsen's South Pole expedition, and he lived to the age of 88.

Image credits: Wilse / Norsk Folkemuseum.