Europe

Norway marks Amundsen's south pole feat 100 years on

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Media captionPM Jens Stoltenberg paid tribute to "one of the most outstanding achievements of mankind"

Dozens of scientists and explorers have joined the Norwegian prime minister to mark 100 years since Roald Amundsen led the first expedition to the south pole.

At the pole, PM Jens Stoltenberg paid tribute to "one of the most outstanding achievements of mankind".

But bad weather has obstructed several explorers who had hoped to reach the pole in time for Wednesday's events.

Homage is also being paid to Robert Scott, the UK explorer whom Amundsen beat to the pole.

Scott and four companions died on the return expedition after being caught in a blizzard.

Mr Stoltenberg unveiled an ice bust of Amundsen at the US scientific base station Amundsen Scott.

He said the commemorations aimed "to highlight the importance of this cold continent in our efforts to understand the warming of the globe", his office said in a statement.

He said Amundsen's polar expeditions "helped to form our new national identity".

Amundsen's arrival at the pole on 14 December 1911 came only six years after Norway had declared independence after a long union with Sweden.

Image caption Amundsen's triumph came only six years after Norway became an independent nation

Amundsen and his men - Olav Bjaaland, Helmer Hanssen, Sverre Hassel and Oscar Wisting - had the same qualities "that the young nation wanted to be recognised by: courage, determination and endurance", the prime minister said.

"Scott and his team paid the ultimate price. But their names will forever be inscribed in polar history. They will always be remembered for their courage and determination in reaching one of the most inhospitable places on earth," Mr Stoltenberg added.

'Missing the party'

Icy winds and low visibility have hampered many explorers who had hoped to be welcomed by Mr Stoltenberg in time for Wednesday's centenary.

Norwegian Polar Institute director Jan-Gunnar Winther, who had attempted to reach the pole on skis, and Norwegian adventurer Asle Johansen, who had hoped to use the same equipment as Amundsen, both had to make the last stretch of their journey by plane to arrive in time, the Associated Press reported.

Fellow Norwegians Vegard Ulvang and Boerge Ousland were still hoping to make it, while British explorer Felicity Aston now expects to arrive a week late, AP said.

Only seven of 12 expeditions supported by the US-based Antarctic Logistics and Expeditions company currently en route to the pole were expected to arrive on time for the celebrations, it said.

"It's a bit of a shame because originally I was hoping to arrive by the 14th," Ms Aston told AP in an interview by satellite phone last week, "and I hear there's going to be a bit of a party, but unfortunately I'll still be out here skiing, so I'm going to miss the party."

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