**Polheim**

Amundsen (at left) and companions at Polheim, South Pole, December 1911

Roald Amundsen

**Polheim**, "Home of the Pole", was Roald Amundsen's name for his camp
(the first ever) at the South Pole. He arrived there on December 14, 1911, along
with four other members of his expedition; Helmer Hanssen, Olav Bjaaland, Oscar
Wisting, and Sverre Hassel.

At the first estimated position of the South Pole, Amundsen declared "So we
plant you, dear flag, on the South Pole, and give the plain on which it lies the
name King Haakon VII's Plateau."

Due to the historical disputes over the claims of polar explorers prior to
Amundsen's expedition, particularly the competing claims of Frederick Cook and
Robert Peary to have reached the North Pole first, Amundsen took special care in
making his polar observations.

Approaching the geographical South Pole (or North Pole) the meridians of
longitude converge, eventually making a measure of longitude meaningless, as a
degree of longitude will become smaller and smaller. At the pole itself,
(assuming one has accurate enough instruments), all meridians meet. Amundsen
reasoned that the extra effort in obtaining longitude could be saved, and he
focused on latitude. (Amundsen adopted this strategy after attending a lecture
at The Royal Geographical Society in London in November 1909, given by A.R.
Hinks a lecturer in Surveying and Cartography at Cambridge University, who put
forward this theory when discussing the subject of determining positions near
the Poles).

With the instruments he had, Amundsen estimated that he could determine the
position of the pole by no better than a nautical mile. In order to ensure that
there was no doubt that his expedition had in fact reached the South Pole, he
determined to encircle, or "box" the pole.

Three members of the expedition were sent out from the current estimated
position of the pole, one continuing on the current expedition track and two at
right angles to this direction. Each skier continued 10 miles and erected a
spare sledge runner with a black flag and note for Robert Falcon Scott when and
if he arrived. (He arrived more than a month later.) The note contained the
position to Amundsen's camp.

While the skiers erected the encircling markers, Amundsen took altitudes of the
sun for fixing his position. Since his theodolite had been damaged, observations
were made with a sextant, the sun slowly circling the camp in 24 hours, and
never setting.

From these calculations, Amundsen determined that their current position was
approximately 5.5 miles from the mathematical South Pole point. This point had
been "boxed" by the skiers.

On December 17 Amundsen proceeded to his estimate of the true South Pole
position, and took additional observations for 24 hours, two men standing watch
for each observation, and co-signing each others navigation books. Again, this
was to ensure that there was no doubt as to the expedition attaining the pole.

From these calculations, it was determined that they were still 1.5 miles from
the pole, and two men were sent to erect additional pennants.

Finally, Amundsen added still more pennants to cover the remaining area. In this
way, the pole had been boxed three times all told.

The official expedition camera had been damaged en route to the pole, so the
only photographs taken were from an amateur camera brought by expedition member,
Olav Bjaaland.

On December 18, 1911, Amundsen's expedition left Polheim, leaving behind his
reserve tent, along with a letter for Scott and a letter intended for Scott to
deliver to King Haakon in the event that Amundsen failed to return. Both letters
were later found with the bodies of Scott and his companions, and were further
proof that Amundsen had attained the pole.

When Amundsen's calculations were verified, it was found that his final camp lay
within 2,500 yards of the mathematical South Pole, a remarkable achievement
given the instruments available. In addition, it had been ascertained that
expedition member Helmer Hanssen - one of the expedition members that had been
skiing in a grid pattern between the 'box' markers - came to within two hundred
yards of the mathematical South Pole on one of his runs.

Amundsen's Map drawn in 1912 aboard Fram