Amundsen was born to a family of Norwegian ship-owners and captains, being the youngest son of four. His mother wanted him to avoid the family maritime life and encouraged him to become a doctor. It was a promise that Amundsen kept until the age of 21 when his mother died. At that point, he quit university for a life at sea. Amundsen had a hidden, lifelong desire inspired by Fridtjof Nansen’s crossing of Greenland in 1888 and already in an early age, he had decided to focus his life on exploring the most wilderness places on earth.
This was the beginning of Amundsen’s several expeditions.
Roald Amundsen is the best known Norwegian polar explorer in history, being the first person, without dispute, having reached both poles.
Amundsen led the Antarctic expedition, which was the first to reach the South Pole, on 14th December 1911, beating the English explorer Robert Falcon Scott just by few weeks. Amundsen had lived in Greenland for few years, learning the Inuit life style. This gave him great advantage, having good clothing and dog teams to help him reaching the pole.
I may say that this is the greatest factor—the way in which the expedition is equipped—the way in which every difficulty is foreseen, and precautions taken for meeting or avoiding it. Victory awaits him who has everything in order—luck, people call it. Defeat is certain for him who has neglected to take the necessary precautions in time; this is called bad luck.
from The South Pole, by Roald Amundsen
In 1926, he was the first expedition leader for the air expedition to the North Pole. In 1926, Amundsen with his explorer crew of 15 men and the Italian aircrew led by aeronautical engineer Umberto Nobile, made the first crossing of the Arctic with the airship Norge. Though the expedition was organized and led by Norwegians, the airship was designed and piloted by the Italian, Nobile. The expedition took off from Spitsbergen on 11th May 1926 and landed in Alaska two days later. This was the first recorded, verified and scientifically convincing expedition reaching the pole.
Amundsen disappeared with five crewmembers on 18th June 1928, while flying on a rescue mission to the Arctic. They were seeking missing members of Nobile’s crew, whose new airship Italia had crashed while returning from the North Pole. Afterward, parts of the airship were found near the Tromsø coast. It is believed, that the plane crashed in fog in the Barents Sea, and that Amundsen and his crew were killed in the crash. The search for Amundsen and his team was called off in September 1928 by the Norwegian Government and the bodies were never found. The rescue operations was Amundsen’s last expedition at age of 56.