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Roald Amundsen’s House 1908-1928

When Roald Amundsen set off on 18 June 1928, to assist a rescue mission in the Artic, he had no way of knowing that he would never return. Today, his home remains much as he left it that fateful day. A last written calendar entry, his desk, the old piano taken onboard Maud, and many other objects, souvenirs and gifts that he brought back from expeditions and various lecture tours provide a glimpse into his private life. The story of one of the world's foremost polar explorers resonates from within the house walls.

Roald Amundsen purchased the house in 1908. Already world renowned as the first to sail through the Northwest Passage, Amundsen proudly adorned his walls with photographs of this expedition.

He named the house Uranienborg, presumably after his experience spent growing up on Uranienborgveien in Oslo. This experience also clarifies how Amundsen most likely became familiar with the significance of the name Uranienborg: Tycho Brahe’s observatory and home on the island of Ven in the Öresund.

  • Thore Bakk/MiA

However, Amundsen's new house was more than just a home; Uranienborg was also a base of operations. Here, in this beautiful house in Svartskog by the Bunnefjord, Amundsen planned and prepared some of his biggest polar feats. These include the conquest of the South Pole (1911), sailing through the Northeast Passage (1918-1925) and the first flight over the North Pole (1926). Additionally, the outbuilding was arranged to function as a warehouse for the expeditions, the polar station Framheim was set up and tested in the garden and the polar ship Fram was prepared on the fjord outside before departure to the South Pole.

Amundsen’s expeditions were costly and eventually he fell into financial difficulty. In 1926, Amundsen went bankrupt. Two of his financial backers, Herman Gade and Don Pedro Christophersen, purchased Uranienborg and allowed Amundsen to continue to live there. In 1933, after Amundsen’s death, they gave the property to the Norwegian State. Since 1935, Uranienborg has been a museum. In 2003, the Follo Museum took over stewardship of the property.

About Roald Amundsen

An Explorer is Born
Roald Amundsen was born on 16 July 1872, in Borge, Østfold, Norway. He was the youngest of four sons to Jens Amundsen, a shipowner, and Gustava Sahlquist, a bailiff’s daughter. His father died when Amundsen was 14 years old. Amundsen began studying medicine, in accordance with his mother's wishes, but after her death in 1893, he quit medical school and embarked on a Captains education.

Belgica and the Northwest Passage
In 1897, Amundsen commenced on his polar career. He joined the crew of the ship Belgica and followed Adrien de Gerlache’s expedition to Antarctica (1897-99). Afterwards, Amundsen purchased the fishing vessel Gjøa, which he used to lead the first expedition through the Northwest Passage between the Atlantic and Pacific (1903-1906). It was after this expedition that he moved to Uranienborg.

The South Pole
Instead of relaxing after this triumph, Amundsen proceeded with his dream to conquer the Poles. He received permission from Fridtjof Nansen to borrow the polar ship Fram (Forward) in order to travel to the North Pole; but, instead of sticking with this plan, he traveled south. On 14 December 1911, Amundsen along with four of his crew were the first to reach the South Pole, 35 days ahead of Robert F. Scott.

The Northeast Passage
In 1917, Amundsen launched his own boat, Maud. His aim was to explore unknown areas of the Arctic Ocean. This expedition continued for many years and ultimately contributed to Amundsen’s bankruptcy.

The North Pole
In 1925, Amundsen attempted to reach the North Pole with the two flying boats N-24 and N-25. However, they had to make an emergency landing at 88° north and only just managed to return home after 30 days in ice. In 1926, Amundsen, along with the Italian Umberto Nobile, finally reached the North Pole with the airship Norge (Norway).

A Final Mission
Two years later, Umberto Nobile crashed during a new overflight of the North Pole in the airship Italia. Amundsen took part in the rescue operation along with five crew in the French flying boat Latham 47. On 18 June 1928, they left Tromsø, but the flying boat crashed, probably somewhere around Bear Island. Amundsen and the crew disappeared, but Nobile was later rescued.