It is now close to 100 years since Roald Amundsen disappeared without trace in the frigid waters of the Barents Sea, in the Norwegian High Arctic, somewhere around 74°N.
Even in death, he is no stranger to controversy. He has variously been portrayed as the “conqueror” of the Northwest Passage, the South Pole and the North Pole; a latter-day Viking; a founding hero of modern Norwegian nationhood; a heartless narcissist; a world-historical character; a master mariner, ski champion and pioneering aviator; a cunning rogue; a glamorous adventurer but not much of a scientist; a glory seeker; an intruder into what “by rights” ought to have been the British sphere of Antarctic exploration.
But then, polar exploration a century and more ago was a fiercely competitive business. And Amundsen was first and last a competitor.
He vanished in 1928, at the age of 55, while trying to rescue a rival in the High Arctic. Yet he has never, to my knowledge, been cast as a tragic hero.
Those are the first few paragraphs of WildTrekker, a new expedition biography of Roald Amundsen I am working on. The research I did for The Blinding Sea – using the camera to get acquainted first-hand with the inhabitants, wilderness and seas of the Arctic and Antarctic – is making a big difference. This book is based on experience, oral and written evidence, and a rigorous search for new insights.
WildTrekker is an adventurous book – even an extreme one. Above all, it places the accent on the quest for knowledge. Writing the book is a cross-disciplinary exercise, drawing on diverse domains of knowledge, such as the science of navigation, the history of exploration and science, medicine and healthcare, animal behaviour and breeding, anthropology, biology, geology, glaciology, mountaineering, oceanography, the physics of magnetism, polar nutrition & psychology, politics, and naturally Amundsen’s own collaborative management style.
The book should come out in 2022, under the Evidentia Originals imprint – 480 pages altogether, with more than 150 illustrations in colour and B&W.
Actually, there will be three versions – two in print, and one as an e-book.
One print edition will have about half of the illustrations in colour and the other half in B&W, and another print edition will have all B&W illustrations.
There will also be an e-book edition, with about half the illustrations in colour, which people with B&W e-book readers will simply see in B&W.
I took the photos at the top of this blog, and below.