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Roald Amundsen's House

The Belgica

A Belgian Endeavour

The ship the Belgica, commanded by Adrien de Gerlache, left Antwerp in August 1897, en route for the Antarctic. Although the expedition only planned to be there for the summer, the ship froze fast in the ice; thus, the Belgian Expedition became the first expedition to overwinter in the Antarctic region.

Scurvy

The expedition was poorly equipped for the Antarctic winter and was threatened by many of the same dangers as the tragic Franklin expedition of the 1840’s. At the time, it was believed that canned food was the best option as opposed to hunting penguins and sea-mammals. Due to this belief, Gerlache and many of his crew fell ill with scurvy. 

Roald Amundsen and Frederick Cook

Amundsen signed on to the Belgian Antarctic Expedition as first mate. Frederic Cook, his friend and the doctor on board, had observed that the Inuits of Greenland ate fresh meat, thus preventing scurvy. Cook encouraged the crew to eat seal and penguin, which saved the whole expedition. 

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The Magnetic South Pole

A goal for the expedition was to find the position of the magnetic pole. On board, Cook and Amundsen discussed ways of reaching the pole. They concluded that using dog-sleds, as the Inuits did, was the best method.

Testing the Equipment

Drawings from the scientist Emil Racoviță show that Amundsen and other crewmembers were experimenting with different gear for polar excursions. Though there was no excursion on the Antarctic mainland this time, 14 years later Amundsen used this gear and dog-sleds to reach the geographical South Pole.

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