ROALD ENGELBREGT GRAVNING AMUNDSEN (1872-1928)
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ROALD ENGELBREGT GRAVNING AMUNDSEN (1872-1928)

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ROALD ENGELBREGT GRAVNING AMUNDSEN (1872-1928)

A series of approximately 63 autograph letters and one typed letter signed ('Roald', one with signature excised) and three telegrams to his brother Gustav and sister-in-law Malfred and their son Gustav ('Gogo'), Fort Yukon, Kristiansand, Fram (two letters, one on paper with printed heading and photographic vignette of the 'Fram-Expeditionen'), Worcester MA, Christiania [Oslo], Maud (two with printed heading of 'Maudexpeditionen'), Bergen, Nome (Alaska), Seattle, Goteborg, New York, Iowa City, Milwaukee, London, Detroit, San Antonio, Orlando, Chicago, Cleveland, St Paul, San Francisco and other US cities, 14 February 1906--15 July 1927, approximately 115 pages, various sizes,
together with a signed photographic postcard, showing Amundsen in Chicago, 8 November 1906, three customs declarations (on printed tickets) for the Maud on her arrival in Nome, Alaska, after the North-East passage transit (for Russian raw sables, 'Medals, Notebooks, Pieces of Ivory' and 'Bead Jewelry'), 30 July--1 September 1920,
and a telegram of commiserations to Gustav Amundsen from Alexandra Kollontay, Soviet ambassador to Norway, 4 September 1928, in Norwegian, expressing her 'deep sorrow' at Amundsen's 'heroic fate'.

DISPATCHES FROM THE TRAVELS OF THE GREAT EXPLORER

The correspondence covers the whole period of Amundsen's great independent exploits, and casts light on virtually all of his great exploits, showing above all the more intimate, relaxed face of the famously austere explorer. The earliest letter, from Fort Yukon early in 1906, acknowledges receipt of a letter from his sister-in-law: Amundsen has just announced to the world the success of his transit of the fabled North-West passage.

Three letters give important insight into the South Pole expedition on the Fram in 1910: the first sees Amundsen in Kristiansand, where he is picking up dogs, and refers to his always vexed financial position. In a brief note on 15 August Amundsen is about to touch at Deal (Kent), whilst waiting for favourable winds to take him down the English Channel. The following, typed, letter of 27 November 1910, also from the Fram, is perhaps the most important and evocative of the collection: Amundsen intends to touch at Kerguelen Island to pick up fresh food (an intention never fulfilled), and is ecstatic at the performance of his ship, 'Fram has shown herself to be a fantastic craft ... able to cope with ease ... The substitution of her steam engine with a diesel motor has been a complete success': the polar explorer in high spirits and full of confidence on the eve of his greatest triumph.

The next substantial group of letters, relating to the Maud expedition (the failed attempt to drift across the North Pole) reflect the tensions of that trip: Amundsen writes from Nome, Alaska, that 'Hanssen, Ronne and Sundbeck are leaving the expedition'. Letters from Seattle and elsewhere in 1921-25 reflect on Amundsen's attempts to fly to the North Pole in collaboration with Lincoln Ellsworth, noting too the financial difficulties in which his expeditions so often involved him (the Seattle banks have been sending threatening letters, and he will be obliged to sell his house, he confides in one letter), among much family talk, evidently inspired by homesickness on his endless lecture tours across the American states (although a letter from Lynchburg VA in 1925 does reflect on the 'endless number of go friends' he has found in the US). Amundsen's last great achievement, the flight across the North Pole in the Norge airship, is signalled in three brief, affectionate telegrams upon his arrival in Alaska. His mysterious disappearance whilst searching for the Italian explorer Umberto Nobile is reflected poignantly in the telegram from Alexandra Kollontay, which refers to the 'scintilla of hope still fluttering' that he might pull off one last great escape.
Provenance
Roald Amundsen and thence by descent to the present owner.
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