The conquest of the poles was an enthralling footrace about fame and honor, life and death. In a list of names such as Bering, Nansen, or Shackleton, one other especially stands out: that of Norway’s Roald Amundsen (1878-1928), who Tokelau is honoring with two commemorative coins on the 100th anniversary of his conquest of the South Pole. This one, the silver $5, has a real crystal Swarovski® Element embedded at the exact position of the South Pole.
Even as a small boy it was Amundsen’s dream to be the first person to stand at the North Pole. In Fall 1909, while preparing to realize this dream, he learned that on April 6 the American Robert E. Peary already reached there. So Amundsen changed his goals and set out for the Antarctic two years later. There, he engaged in a dramatic race with Robert F. Scott of England: 937 miles in 2 months at -22 degrees Fahrenheit. Thanks to better equipment and strategy, on December 14, 1911, he and his team became the first to stand at the South Pole. When Scott arrived 35 days later, the Norwegian flag was flying there to greet him. Scott’s return voyage was a tragic disaster — he and his four companions lost their lives — starved, exhausted, and frozen to death, while Amundsen returned home in triumph and became the first national hero in young Norway.
The irony of this story is that it was never proven that Robert Peary actually stood on the North Pole in 1909. In this case Amundsen would also be the first person at the North Pole during his over flight in the airship Norge in May 1926!
The two coins are dated 2011 and are made only in proof quality. Each has a nominal value of $5. The silver version is sterling (.925 fine), weighs 25 grams, and is a crown-sized 38.61 mm in diameter. Mintage is 2,500 pieces.