By Joanna Grochowicz
From the author of the highly acclaimed Into the White, Amundsen’s Way: The Race to the South Pole (Allen & Unwin) is the gripping tale of the Norwegian explorer’s courage, determination and ruthlessness in the race to the South Pole. In this excerpt, Amundsen prepares to telegraph the news of reaching the South Pole.
7 MARCH 1912 – HOBART
Many years from now, the people of Hobart will tell how he strode up Murray Street, an imposing figure flanked by two fearsome sledge dogs. But this is not the case. On this particular Thursday morning, Roald Amundsen is just a man heading up the hill to Hadley’s Orient Hotel, completely alone and in possession of news that will soon echo around the world.
Sledge dogs are far from his thoughts. Neither is he concerned about what his crew are doing aboard the Fram, which has dropped anchor in the middle of the Derwent River. One clear thought spurs him on – hot water.
He imagines soap and steam and how it will feel to slide his weary explorer’s body into an extravagantly deep bath. A proper wash in a proper bathroom; he can think of no greater luxury. It’s been a year and a half.
Needless to say, Amundsen is not a fetching sight. In his filthy old cap and an ancient blue jersey riddled with holes, he appears more tramp than polar hero. Pedestrians alter their pace; some slow to let him pass, others pull their children aside. Amundsen sees the wrinkled-up noses, the odd looks at his attire. He cares little. Anonymity comes as a relief. He’s not ready for people. Not quite yet.
To a man so used to walking on snow, the sensation of paving stones underfoot is unnerving. So too the loud, clacking sounds of the port, the swish of soft skirts, the peaty scent of horse manure on cobbles warmed by the sun.
It was cooler on the water. The town seems airless by comparison. Sweaty, irritable, the explorer finds fault with the bustle of the place, the very squareness of the buildings. Even the air, flecked with dust, is disagreeable, filling his mouth with too much flavour. Coughing repeatedly, he longs to fill his lungs with a clean breeze off the sea, to feel the satisfying pang of air as cold as ice.
Excerpt published by permission from Amundsen’s Way by Joanna Grochowicz, published by Allen & Unwin NZ, 2019
by Joanna Grochowicz
Published by Allen & Unwin NZ