Image Successful explorers at the South Pole, 1911

TLF ID R3205

This is a mounted sepia photograph, measuring 7.6 cm x 12.6 cm, taken by Olar Bjaaland (1873-1961) at the South Pole on 14 December 1911. It shows his four companions paying tribute to the Norwegian flag flying from their tent. Written across the mount below the photograph is the caption, 'The successful explorers at the South Pole'.

Educational details

Educational value
  • This asset shows the first expedition to reach the South Pole - Roald Amundsen (1872-1928), the leader of the expedition, was a Norwegian polar explorer, who already had a string of achievements to his name, having been the first to successfully navigate the Northwest Passage and the first to locate the site of the Magnetic North Pole; he was beaten to the North Pole by the American Robert Peary and secretly changed his plans to try for the South Pole before his British rival, Robert Scott, whose party tragically perished after reaching the Pole five weeks after Amundsen.
  • It is a historic record of the first human sighting of the geographical South Pole, which is on a plateau about 2,800 metres above sea level - locating the position of the Pole was not easy and the team took repeated navigational readings during the expedition; having reached latitude 89 degrees 56 minutes South, they circled the Pole at a radius of 12.5 miles (about 20 kilometres), taking further measurements to ensure that their readings were accurate.
  • The photograph shows Amundsen (left) and his fellow explorers - Helmer Hanssen (second from left, 1870-1956) was an expert dog sled driver, navigator and ship's mate; Sverre Hassel (third from left, 1876-1928) was the ship's navigator and a master dog driver; and Oskar Wisting (right, 1871-1936) was the ship's mate and naval gunner, with experience on whaling ships. The photographer, Olar Bjaaland, was a carpenter, adventurer and probably the greatest skier of his time.
  • It shows the tent, named 'Polheim' (home of the Pole), erected on the site of the South Pole - the tent was made by Oskar Wisting while at the home base in the Bay of Whales on the Ross Ice Shelf; made from weight-saving windcloth, the tent included a floor and weighed about 4 kilograms less than a conventional canvas tent; Amundsen left two letters behind in the tent, one for Scott and the other for King Haakon VII of Norway; the letters were later recovered with the bodies of Scott's party.
  • It shows two flags flying from the tent - on top is the Norwegian flag, flown to signify that Amundsen was claiming the 'first' in honour of Norway; the second flag is the flag of Amundsen's ship, the 'Fram', an exceptionally well-built ship with a shallow hull that prevented it from being pushed up by the ice, thus being crushed.
  • It illustrates the isolation and the severity of the conditions at the South Pole - the landscape is featureless, making navigation without the benefits of modern technology difficult and confusing; the severity of the cold and winds, illustrated by the heavy clothing and the many ropes holding the tent, demanded fortitude on the part of the explorers; searching for the North and South Poles cost the lives of hundreds of men and dozens of ships.
  • It is evidence of an Australian connection - this photograph comes from a collection of photographs compiled by Australian photographer E W Searle while working for J W Beattie in Hobart during 1911-15; inscriptions on the album containing this photograph are 'Original photos taken at South Pole by capt Amundsen Dec. 14th 1911' and 'Films developed and printed by E.W. Searle Mar. 12th 1912 for Capt Amundsen'.
Year level

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

Learning area
  • History
  • Studies of society and environment

Other details

  • Author
  • Person: Olar Bjaaland
  • Description: Author
  • Contributor
  • Name: National Library of Australia
  • Organization: National Library of Australia
  • Description: Content provider
  • URL:
  • Name: Education Services Australia
  • Organization: Education Services Australia
  • Description: Data manager
  • Person: Olar Bjaaland
  • 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:
  • Resource metadata contributed by
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
Access profile
  • Colour independence
  • Device independence
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Learning Resource Type
  • Image
  • © Education Services Australia Ltd and National Library of Australia, 2013, except where indicated under Acknowledgements