Belgium marks centennial of South Pole expedition on coin

Proof honors Amundsen's effort
Published : 06/01/11
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Belgium celebrates the centennial of the first successful expedition to the South Pole, by explorer Roald Amundsen, on new Proof silver €10 coins.

“The last of the Vikings,” as he liked to be known, Amundsen was a polar explorer from Norway. He led the first expedition to the South Pole, from 1910 to 1912.

Amundsen began planning an expedition to cross the Arctic Ocean in 1909 aboard the Fram, intending that the ship be encased in ice for the expedition. The Norwegian public anticipated that during this trip Amundsen would attempt to become the first to reach the North Pole. He was emulating his hero Fridtjof Nansen, a Norwegian explorer and scientist who crossed Greenland in the 1880s and attempted to reach the North Pole in the 1890s.

According to the Fram Museum in Norway, public support for Amundsen’s Arctic Ocean journey waned after two other explorers claimed to have become the first to reach the North Pole. Amundsen then began secretly planning for a new destination for his expedition — the South Pole. “Amundsen even kept his plans for a South Pole expedition a secret from officials within the Norwegian government,” according to

When the Fram left Norway in June 1910, most thought the Arctic expedition was still active; the official plan called for the explorers to sail around Cape Horn, and continue north through the Pacific Ocean before entering the Arctic Ocean through Bering Strait in the summer of 1911. Instead, at Funchal, Madeira, Portugal, Amundsen announced that he was heading for the South Pole, according to the Fram Museum.

The expedition reached the Bay of Whales, on Antarctica’s Ross Ice Shelf on Oct. 18, 1911, and departed over land to the South Pole, which was reached Dec. 14, 1911. The Amundsen expedition beat Capt. Robert F. Scott’s British team, which arrived at the South Pole on Jan. 18, 1912.

In 1926, Amundsen would fly over the North Pole in an airship and thus became the first explorer to travel to both the North and South poles, and was also the first to traverse the Northwest Passage.

Amundsen disappeared in June 1928 while taking part in a rescue mission in the Arctic.

Coinage details

The obverse of the coin depicts a portrait of Amundsen to the right. Above and to the left is a map of Antarctica, with meridians and circles of latitude displayed, while five sled dogs and a musher appear below and to the left.

The reverse depicts a map of the European Union, 12 stars, the coin denomination, year of issue and the name of Belgium in the country’s three official languages: Dutch, French and German.

The Proof .925 fine silver coin weighs 18.75 grams, measures 33 millimeters in diameter and has a mintage limit of 15,000 pieces.

It costs $89.75 from distributor the Coin & Currency Institute. To order, write to the firm at P.O. Box 399, Williston, VT 05495, telephone the business at (802) 878-0822, call it toll free at (800) 421-1866 or fax it at (802) 536-4787. Visit or direct email for the company to ■

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