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Roald Engelbregt Gravning Amundsen is Born

Today in Masonic History Roald Engelbregt Gravning Amundsen is born in 1872.

Roald Engelbregt Gravning Amundsen was a Norwegian explorer.

Amundsen was born into a family of shipowners and captains in Borge, a parish and former municipality in Norway on July 16th, 1872. His mother did not want him living his life at sea so she insisted he become a doctor, so he promised. Up to the age of 21 he went to medical school. When his mother passed away he promptly left school and begin a life at sea, more especially a life as an explorer. He had been inspired from a young age by other Norwegian explorers.

From 1897 to 1899, Amundsen joined an expedition to the Antarctic. Either by design or by accident the ship became trapped in ice and the crew was the first to spend a winter in Antarctica. The crew was ill prepared for the harsh conditions. Along with being the first mate on the crew, Amundsen was also the doctor. He noted if it were not for the hunting done by one of the crew, they'd have succumb to scurvy. Amundsen learned many lessons about survival on the expedition, not the least of which, when no citrus fruit is available, animals produce their own Vitamin C and potentially cures scurvy.

In 1903, Amundsen undertook his own expedition to become the first vessel to traverse Canada's Northwest Passage. He along with 6 men journeyed along the coast of Canada. Amundsen took a boat which had a shallow draft allowing them to traverse waters which at times were less than 3 feet deep. After successfully arriving in Alaska, the crew wintered there in 1905, returning to Norway in 1906. Amundsen traveled to Nome via dog sled to telegraph home they had successfully traversed the Northwest Passage. It was during his time in Alaska he learned further lessons from the Inuit people with who the crew interacted. He discovered animal skins were much better than common wool because the skins repelled water better to keep out the cold.

In 1909, Amundsen was gearing up for an expedition to the North Pole when word came another expedition had reached it. Instead Amundsen turned his attention to the South Pole. He set sail in 1910 with his expedition. In January of 1911, the expedition arrived in Antarctica. After two attempts to reach the South Pole, on December 14th, 1911, Amundsen and his team reached the South Pole. Over a month later, in January of 1912, the team returned to their base camp. Amundsen left the base with 52 dogs and returned with 16, which was part of Amundsen's plan to reach the pole. At the South Pole they left a small tent and a letter stating their accomplishment. They beat the next team to the south pole by 33 or 34 days.

From 1918 to 1920 Amundsen attempted to reach the North pole by going deeper into the ice. Unfortunately the plan did not work and eventually the attempt was abandoned. In 1925, Amundsen joined a team in an airship flying over the North Pole. Prior claims of arriving at the North Pole have been disputed, if it is true no other expedition reached the North Pole then Amundsen was one of two men who had been the first to reach both poles, by land or by air. The other was a member of Amundsen's South Pole expedition and who accompanied Amundsen on his 1925 journey.

Amundsen passed away in what is presumed to be a plane crash. Parts of the plane were found in the Bearing Strait, although the plane and any human remains were never found. In 2012, the Royal Norwegian Navy attempted to locate the plane with no success. It is believed he passed away on June 18th, 1928.

Amundsen is listed in many books and websites as being a Freemason. According to the Grand Lodge of Norway, Amundsen was never initiated in any lodge in their Jurisdiction. They have also not found any record of him being initiated in any lodge in a country he may have visited. We are left with the conclusion, despite anecdotal evidence to the contrary, Amundsen was more than likely not a Freemason.

This article provided by Brother Eric C. Steele.