© 2019

Roald Amundsen’s Sled Dogs

The Sledge Dogs Who Helped Discover the South Pole

  • Documents the contribution of sledge dogs to Antarctic exploration and historical discovery

  • An in-depth analysis of Roald Amundsen’s strategic use of sledge dogs to win the race to the Pole

  • First book to trace, name, and identify the individual sledge dogs who first reached the South Pole


Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xxii
  2. The Strategic Plan, The Secret Ingredient

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 15-15
    2. Mary R. Tahan
      Pages 17-31
  3. From Greenland to Norway

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 51-51
    2. Mary R. Tahan
      Pages 53-58
  4. Journey Across the Seas to Antarctica

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 77-77
    2. Mary R. Tahan
      Pages 127-152
    3. Mary R. Tahan
      Pages 153-173
    4. Mary R. Tahan
      Pages 175-187
    5. Mary R. Tahan
      Pages 189-202
  5. Depot-Laying, Winter’s Work, and a False Start

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 203-203

About this book


This book is an analytical account of how Roald Amundsen used sledge dogs to discover the South Pole in 1911, and is the first to name and identify all 116 Polar dogs who were part of the Norwegian Antarctic Expedition of 1910–1912. The book traces the dogs from their origins in Greenland to Antarctica and beyond, and presents the author’s findings regarding which of the dogs actually reached the South Pole, and which ones returned.

Using crewmember diaries, reports, and written correspondence, the book explores the strategy, methodology, and personal insights of the explorer and his crew in employing canines to achieve their goal, as well as documents the controversy and internal dynamics involved in this historic discovery. It breaks ground in presenting the entire story of how the South Pole was truly discovered using animals, and how deep and profound the differences of perception were regarding the use of canines for exploration.

This historic tale sheds light on Antarctic exploration history and the human-nature relationship. It gives recognition to the significant role that animals played in this important part of history.


Norwegian Antarctic Expedition Polar Exploration Roald Amundsen Sled Dogs / Sledge Dogs South Pole Arctic exploration history human-nature relations Role of dogs in expeditions

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.VancouverCanada

About the authors

Mary R. Tahan is a writer, producer, and documentarian, with a professional background in journalism and marketing. Internationally renowned for her educational and informational series, she has authored many scholarly articles and historical books, and produced/directed documentary films.

Her scholarly articles and lectures/presentations focus on Antarctica and the "heroic age of exploration", and cover many countries, and she has documented individuals and organizations as well as cities and historical events. As part of her research for her series of films and books on Polar exploration, Mary R. Tahan traveled to Antarctica by invitation of the Dirección Nacional del Antártico (Instituto Antártico Argentino), where she performed on-site photography and videography of the Antarctic landscape and historical sites, as well as conducted interviews with scientists and curators. Her research has also taken her to Argentina, Norway, France, Russia, and England, where she has also interviewed Polar historians and descendants of the early explorers of the Arctic and Antarctic.

Bibliographic information


“Tahan’s analysis is an exceptional approach because it turns the attention away from a perception of Amundsen as ‘the man who beat Scott’. … Readers who are interested in the history of canines in the Antarctic will find this book more than satisfying. … The views and perceptions of Amundsen and other expedition members that Tahan depicts are revealing about the whole operation and will excite scholars in social sciences as well as psychologists.” (Ursula Rack, The Polar Journal, October 16, 2019) 

“... In dem vorliegenden Buch hat sie offenbar wirklich alles Wissenswerte über die Hunde zusammengetragen. ... Neben der Beschreibung der Hundeschicksale wird durch den Vergleich der einzelnen Tagebucheinträge der Teilnehmer auch ein detailliertes Bild von Amundsens spontanen Entscheidungen als Reaktion auf unvorhergesehene Ereignisse gegeben. ... hat die Autorin in diesem Buch wahrlich ein würdiges Denkmal gesetzt. Das Buch ist jedem zu empfehlen, der sich mit Amundsens Methode der Schlittenreisen näher auseinandersetzen möchte ...” (Cornelia Lüdecke, in: Polarforschung, 2021)