Get Today in Masonic History into your Inbox. Sign up today for one of our email lists!

TODAY in Masonic History:

Facebook Twitter Google

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 Amundsen living his life at sea so she insisted he become a doctor, which Amundsen promised he would. Up to the age of 21 Amundsen went to medical school. When his mother passed away he would promptly leave 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 would be the first to spend a winter in Antarctica. The crew was ill prepared for the winter. Along with being the first mate on the crew, Amundsen was also the doctor. He noted that if it were not for the hunting done by one of the crew, they would have succumb to scurvy. Amundsen learned many lessons about survival on the expedition, not the least of which was that when there was no citrus fruit available, animals that produce their own Vitamin C is a good substitute and can potentially cure 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 that had a shallow draft that allowed them to traverse waters that were at times, less than 3 ft. After successfully arriving in Alaska, the crew would have to winter there in 1905 return to Norway in 1906. Amundsen traveled to Nome via dog sled to telegraph home that they had successfully traversed the Northwest Passage. It was during his time in Alaska that Amundsen learned further lessons from the Inuit people the crew interacted with. He discovered that animal skins were much better than the common wool that had been used 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 in that another expedition had reached the pole. Instead Amundsen turned his attention to the South Pole. He would set sail in 1910 with his expedition. In January of 1911, the expedition would arrive in Antarctica. After two attempts to reach the South Pole, on December 14th, 1911, Amundsen and his team reached the South Pole. Just over a month later in January of 1912, the team would return to their base camp. Amundsen left the base came with 52 dogs and would return 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 that stated their accomplishment. They would beat the next team to the south pole by 33 or 34 days.

From 1918 to 1920 Amundsen would attempt 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 that would cross over the North Pole. Prior claims of arriving at the North Pole have been disputed, if it is true that no other expedition had reached the North Pole to that date then Amundsen would be 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 had accompanied Amundsen on his 1925 journey.

Amundsen would pass 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 Norway. 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 that despite anecdotal evidence to the contrary Amundsen was more than likely not a Freemason.