Lucky: Amundsen’s Way
For Roald E. G. Amundsen
(1872 – 1922)
…this is the greatest factor—the way in which the expedition is equipped—the way in which every difficulty is foreseen, and precautions taken for meeting or avoiding it. Victory awaits him who has everything in order — luck, people call it.
— from The South Pole, by Roald Amundsen
…we were not to believe in you…
O you who are never the same
who are secret as the day when it comes
you whom we explain
whenever we can
without understanding. “To Luck,” W. S. Merwin, US Poet Laureate.
Sailor hero who first crossed the Northwest Passage
After four centuries of others’ failed attempts
You set out in the Fram aiming next to be the first
On the North Pole. Alas, you learned Cook and Peary
Claimed the contested polar prize.
Undaunted, you changed course to conquer the South Pole
Instead. Exploits to test record breaking daring souls
Are limitless. A hundred years ago could you imagine
The first pilot who would fly solo over the Atlantic?
A hundred years ago, could you conceive
Of the human eagle that would land first on the moon?
But a century ago, the explorer’s next frontier was
Wild Antarctica. So in secrecy you set sail
Having learned your lesson—competitors
For our heart’s desire abound. You whipped yourself
Into shape, learned from failed expeditions, listened to
The Eskimo and wore skin clothes.
You took four sledges and 52 dogs with your team
And on December 14th 1911 you were the first man to reach
The South pole—cold, gray and dreary.
Few the thrilled with trips to polar lands; but as long as
Human imagination will soar in search of more to explore
Farther stars to see, newer landscapes to discover,
Deeper inner frontiers to conquer, mankind will forever look up to you
And learn to be lucky, your way, by getting ready with the right tools,
Planning for the foreseeable—and getting everything in order
For the next history making journey.