The 1910's
The Race to the South Pole

The Race to the South Pole
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 5 to 8
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   5.79

     challenging words:    muster, Roald, telegram, provided, radius, academic, among, maintain, successful, competition, meantime, region, encircle, arise, immediately, halt
     content words:    North Pole, Robert Peary, Matthew Henson, Roald Amundsen, Arctic Circle, Belgica Expedition, Northwest Passage, South Pole, Captain Robert Scott, Only Amundsen

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The Race to the South Pole
By Jane Runyon

1     The competition among explorers to reach the North Pole was intense. Several men dreamed of being able to brag about his adventures in reaching a spot on Earth no other man had ever reached. Robert Peary and Matthew Henson shattered many of those dreams by reaching the North Pole in September of 1909. Roald Amundsen was one of those explorers hoping to be the first.
2     Roald Amundsen was born near Oslo, Norway. Oslo is near the Arctic Circle, so he was used to the cold conditions of the Arctic. From his birth in 1872, exploration was part of his life. He began his academic life by studying medicine. At the tender age of fifteen, he left school behind, however. The sea was calling him. He worked very hard at being a good sailor. In 1899, he was introduced to the Antarctic while on an expedition called the Belgica Expedition. In 1903, he traversed the northern Arctic region by being the first to travel the Northwest Passage.
3     When news of Peary's team's successful expedition to the North Pole reached Amundsen, his plans to reach that goal immediately changed. He set his sights on being the first to reach the South Pole instead. He was not the only explorer to have that goal in mind. Captain Robert Scott had the same idea. Amundsen decided that the only way to beat Scott was to keep his plans for an expedition secret. He knew that the only way he would be able to maintain the financial support he had was to be the first to reach the Pole. He also knew he would have to do so in a very dramatic way.
4     Amundsen and his crew set sail from Christiania, Denmark, on August 9, 1910. Only Amundsen, his brother, Leon, and the ship's captain knew the true destination of the ship. The rest of the crew believed that they would be exploring the Arctic region. They arrived in Medeira off the coast of Portugal a month later. It was in Madeira that Amundsen stocked his ship with the supplies that would be essential to his plan. Just before the ship was set to sail, Amundsen called his crew together. He told them of his plan to sail south. He gave each crew member the opportunity to leave. After the crew had made its decision to stay with the expedition, Amundsen sent his brother off the ship carrying letters from the crew to their families. He also carried a message to be telegraphed to Captain Scott informing him of the plan to reach the South Pole.
5     Scott was a good eight weeks ahead of Amundsen and in no particular hurry. He arrived in Melbourne, Australia, on October 12, 1910. It was here that he received Amundson's telegram.

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