150 years Roald Amundsen celebrated
New discoveries being unveiled with a flurry of activities
This year marks 150 years since the birth of polar hero Roald Amundsen. The anniversary is being commemorated with the publication of a diary and a digital “resurrection” of the polar explorer.
Roald Amundsen’s home in Nordre Follo has now been reopened after two years of pandemic. The Swiss-style villa, which today is a museum, is almost untouched and looks the way it did when Amundsen disappeared in 1928.
“It is fun to finally be able to open again. It has been a long time since we could keep it open to the public,” said professional consultant Anders Bache at Roald Amundsen’s home to NTB.
The opening is taking place just in time to celebrate the polar hero’s 150th anniversary. During the pandemic, the museum launched a digital version of the Amundsen home, where every nook and cranny was 3-D scanned. This anniversary year, the museum has several new treats in store.
Among other things, the polar explorer reappears “alive,” albeit in the form of a digital version of himself.
“In collaboration with one of the world’s best 3-D animators, we are recreating Amundsen digitally, so that you can have a conversation with him. Similar things have been done with Einstein, for example. We hope the project will be ready by the anniversary date of July 16,” said Bache.
In another major digital project, to be launched in a few years, the public will have the opportunity to join Amundsen on polar expeditions via virtual reality technology.
Diary published for the first time
It’s been 111 years since Amundsen became the first person to reach the South Pole, a feat that perhaps reigns supreme over all his many expeditions to the world’s extremities.
During his expeditions, Amundsen wrote diaries, which were published in book form. But in a private diary from 1925, he describes his relationship with his great love—the married woman Kiss Bennett. The diary was kept private for 50 years, before it was opened in the National Library’s archives in 1990.
This summer, the diary will be published in book form for the very first time in a collaboration between the National Library and Follo Museum. While the successful adventurer frequently toured the world to talk about his polar achievements, he shielded his privacy very well. This diary therefore provides a unique insight into the polar explorer’s emotional life, Bache explained.
“Here we meet an Amundsen in his 50s who is happy, jealous, and full of longing and feelings. It is a story that makes him more human,” he said.
New items on exhibit
The 150th anniversary will also be marked with several other events. Earlier this year, the Norwegian postal service, Posten, launched two new stamps with portraits of Roald Amundsen in commemoration of the anniversary. An unveiling of a bust of Amundsen is also planned in Kolbotn, the administration center in Nordre Follo—which today would be Amundsen’s home municipality.
This summer, the Amundsen Museum will be open longer than usual, hold several events, and exhibit objects and photographs that have never been shown before.
On the 150th anniversary itself, July 16, the museum will celebrate with a birthday cake, a lecture and a backyard party, where a drink will be served based on an old drink recipe that was recently found in one of the drawers in the Amundsen house.
“It is a mixture of sherry, sugar, spirits, and water, so it will be good,” laughed Bache.
Constant new discoveries
The world maps still had some “white spots” in Amundsen’s time. Like the old maps, there is also much that is still unknown about Amundsen’s life and work.
The end of the polar explorer’s life is still a mystery to historians. In June 1928, the 55-year-old Amundsen volunteered to help in a search operation for his Italian rival, Umberto Nobile, who had disappeared on an expedition to the North Pole.
Amundsen’s plane took off from Tromsø on June 18, and it is said to have disappeared near Bjørnøya south of Svalbard. The plane and Amundsen were never found.
Even close to a hundred years later, new objects are constantly being discovered in nooks and crannies of Amundsen’s old house.
“Most recently …, we found a cloth bag from the South Pole expedition that we hadn’t seen before. We sometimes find letters; we find things between sofa cushions. It’s like laying a jigsaw puzzle without corner pieces, a puzzle that gets bigger and bigger,” said Bache.
This article originally appeared in the June 10, 2022, issue of The Norwegian American.