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Image Sled dogs at the South Pole, 1911

TLF ID R2938

This is a 1911 black-and-white sepia-toned photograph, taken by Roald Amundsen (1872-1928) at the South Pole, of a dog team hitched to a loaded sled on the snow. A figure dressed in Arctic-style cold weather gear stands beside the sled and a Norwegian flag is stuck in the snow. Apart from three other dogs tethered behind the sled, the background is featureless and the sky merges with the snow-covered ground. The photograph measures 12.5 cm x 8.0 cm.




Educational details

Educational value
  • This asset shows a member of the team organised by Roald Amundsen, the famous Norwegian Antarctic explorer, to win the race to the South Pole in 1911 - Amundsen utilised survival techniques he had gained from studying the Netsilik people in the Arctic and these techniques, combined with his understanding of the advantages of using dogs to pull his sleds, enabled Amundsen to succeed in his mission, while his English rival Robert Scott (1868-1912) and his team perished on a similar mission a month later.
  • It shows the style of dress, adopted from the Arctic, worn in the Antarctic in the early years of the 20th century before the invention of synthetic materials - Amundsen's men wore clothing, made mainly of animal fur, that was light, warm and dry, whereas Scott's men wore layers of cotton and wool, with the ends sealed to keep out the snow, thus causing the men to sweat and then suffer from having the moisture freeze on their bodies and in their clothes.
  • It shows the husky and Samoyed sled dogs that Amundsen considered to be his 'edge' in getting to the Pole first, because they were efficient and could be killed to provide food when necessary - Scott relied on motorised sleds (which seized in the cold) and ponies (which, because they sweat through their skin, soon froze to death), while dogs (which sweat via their tongue, keeping their skin and fur dry) were admirably suited to the temperature and the terrain, sometimes even sensing crevasses hidden in the snow ahead.
  • It shows an efficient dog sled team of six dogs – dogs were used in the Antarctic until they were phased out in 1993; they were banned by the Antarctic Treaty because they were spreading distemper to the seal population.
  • It illustrates that Amundsen used strong light sleds and the fan hitch method of attaching each dog to the sled with its own tow line, a method that ensured greater safety when there was the chance of encountering crevasses.
  • It shows a Norwegian flag, a reminder that the race to the South Pole between Amundsen and Scott was a serious affair, with national pride at stake.
  • It illustrates some of the difficulty of the physical conditions faced by explorers in Antarctica, where there are crevasses, blizzards and temperatures that can drop as low as -84 degrees Celsius.
  • It reveals an Australian connection to Amundsen's expedition - this photograph forms part of a collection of photographs compiled by Australian photographer E W Searle while working for J W Beattie in Hobart during 1911-1915; an inscription on the album reads 'Films developed and printed by E.W. Searle Mar. 12th 1912 for Capt Amundsen'.
Year level

2; 3; 4; 5; 6; 7; 8; 9; 10; 11; 12

Learning area
  • History
  • Studies of society and environment

Other details

Contributors
  • Contributor
  • Name: National Library of Australia
  • Organization: National Library of Australia
  • Description: Content provider
  • URL: http://www.nla.gov.au
  • Name: Education Services Australia
  • Organization: Education Services Australia
  • Description: Data manager
  • Person: Roald Amundsen
  • Description: Author
  • Copyright Holder
  • Name: National Library of Australia
  • Organization: National Library of Australia
  • Publisher
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organization: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Description: Publisher
  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
  • URL: http://www.esa.edu.au
  • Resource metadata contributed by
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: AUSTRALIA
  • URL: www.esa.edu.au
Access profile
  • Colour independence
  • Device independence
  • Hearing independence
Learning Resource Type
  • Image
Rights
  • © Education Services Australia Ltd and National Library of Australia, 2013, except where indicated under Acknowledgements