Lessons From the Arctic



Ahoy there Captains! Welcome. We’re glad you’re visiting the Lessons from the Arctic exhibition. There’s lots to learn here, and we’ve got some questions to help you get more out of your visit. To learn the answer to any of the questions select the + symbol in the answer box. The hints tell you which images hold the answers you seek, though you may need to read the captions or other text near the image.

Scavenger Hunt

Question 1

Before setting off on his expedition, Amundsen wrote “if we are going to win, there must not be a single trouser button missing” in his diary. What did this mean?

Hint: Look for the Journey to Antarctica panel.

Answer to Question 1

To succeed, we must be well prepared!

Question 2

The map below shows both the Northwest and Northeast Passages. Roald Amundsen completed both routes, but which ship did he use for each of the journeys?

Hint: Look for the Roald Amundsen in Seattle and  the Gjøa Expedition panels.

map showing two routes through the Northwest Passage

Harder, Susie. (2009). Map of the Arctic region showing shipping routes Northeast Passage, Northern Sea Route, and Northwest Passage, and bathymetry [Map]. Retrieved from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Map_of_the_Arctic_region_showing_the_Northeast_Passage,_the_Northern_Sea_Route_and_Northwest_Passage,_and_bathymetry.png (accessed June 1, 2020) Wikimedia Commons Public Domain.

Answer to Question 2

Amundsen took Maud through the Northeast Passage and Gjøa through the Northwest Passage.

Question 3

Amundsen spent a lot of time learning about Arctic survival from the Inuit. What are some of the most important lessons he learned?

Hint: Look for the Gjøa Expedition panels.

Answer to Question 3

Amundsen learned to properly drive sled dogs, to dress in furs to stay warm and to construct igloos, etc.

Question 4

Who are the Netsiliks?

Hint: Look for the Gjøa Expedition panels.

Answer to Question 4

The Netsiliks are an Inuit group who live in northern Canada.

Question 5

Look at the photo below. What is this type of knife called?

Hint: Look for the Gjøa Expedition panels.

an image of a knife with a curved blade.

CambridgeBayWeather. (2006). Retrieved from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Inuit_Ulu.JPG (accessed June 1, 2020) Wikimedia Commons Public Domain.

Answer to Question 5

This knife is called an ulu. 

Question 6

Why did Scott’s expedition to the South Pole fail?

Hint: Look for the What About Scott?, Southwards and Nine Months Preparing panels

Answer to Question 6

Scott’s crew was ill-prepared. They did not pack their petroleum correctly, they brought donkeys, they ran out of dog food, they did not properly rest before their main expedition and they did not travel a consistent distance each day.

Question 7

Q: Why was Amundsen’s journey back from the South Pole successful?

Hint: Look for the Return, Southwards, Nine Months Preparing, the Preparations for the Southern Journey and the Gjøa Expedition panels.

Answer to Question 7

Amundsen and his crew were well prepared. Amundsen brought with him lots of experience from the Arctic, they rationed their food well, they packed their provisions in a very organized way, they covered a consistent distance every day and they rested before heading to the South Pole.

Question 8

Think about Vancouver’s temperature in the winter. How cold do you think -50˚C is? What type of clothing must you wear to survive in such a climate?

Hint: Look for the First Attempt and the Gjøa Expedition panels

Answer to Question 8

Fur/animal skin parkas.

Question 9

How are the living quarters of the Norwegian explorers at Franheim different that the living quarters of the British at Cape Evans?

Hint: Look for the Timeline, Settling in for the Winter and the Bay of Whales panels.

Answer to Question 9

In addition to a cabin built prior to the voyage, the Norwegians expanded their space in the ice around them by carving out new rooms, while the British brought along with them only a prebuilt wooden “hut.”

Question 10

Look at the image below. What country is this flag from?

Hint: Look for the What About Scott? panel

image of a red flag with a blue and white cross on it

Answer to Question 10

This is the flag of Norway.

Question 11

Q: Why do you think rest is so important during polar expeditions?

Hint: Look for the Southwards and Nine Months Preparing panels.

Answer to Question 11

It is easy for exhaustion to set in on polar expeditions

General Knowledge Questions

Captains, these answers will challenge you a little more because the answers won’t be found directly in the exhibition panels. 

Question 12

Find the photo of Maud and then look at the St. Roch through the windows (or look at the images below). What similarities do you see between these two ships? Why do you think they share so many characteristics?

photo of the Maud

Skarpmoen, Narve. (1917-1918). Photograph of Maud from the National Library of Norway [Photo]. Retrieved from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Polarskibet_Maud_-_no-nb_digifoto_20160331_00101_NB_NS_NM_09785.jpg (accessed June 1, 2020) Wikimedia Commons Public Domain.

photo of st roch

Matthews, James Skitt, Major. (C. 1929). St. Roch at Vancouver [Photo]. Retrieved from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:St._Roch_ship_Vancouver.jpg (accessed June 1, 2020) Wikimedia Commons Public Domain.

Answer to Question 12

They both have a “U-shaped” hull, they both use sails and have masts, etc

Question 13

The Northwest and Northeast Passages are meant to connect which two parts of the world?

Hint: Look for Roald Amundsen in Seattle and the Gjøa Expedition panels.

Answer to Question 13

Europe and Asia

Question 14

Many vessels from late 19th and early 20th centuries were powered by a combination of wind and fossil fuels (Fram for instance had both sails and a diesel engine). What are the advantages of such a design?

Hint: Look for the Fram Expedition, the Crew and the Gjøa Expedition panels

Answer to Question 14

Sails are not reliant on fuels and so can never run out; engines can have issues with reliability; dual power can allow for faster travel and longer range.

Question 15

Why do you think Amundsen wanted a relatively small vessel for this journey through the Northwest Passage?

Hint: Look for the Gjøa Expedition panel.

Answer to Question 14

Smaller boats can manoeuvre around the ice easier.

Critical Thinking Questions

These are questions you can’t get wrong because there are no right or wrong answers. They are designed to think about what you’ve learned from the Lessons from the Arctic exhibition. 

Question 16

When it came polar exploration, smaller crews tended to fare better. Amundsen’s crew of 19 reached the South Pole, while Scott’s team of 65 failed. The Northwest Passage was first completed, not by the massive crews of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, but by the 7 brave sailors aboard Gjøa. Why do you think this was? 

For context, see the Timeline and the Gjøa Expedition panels

Question 17

Polar exploration, especially in Amundsen’s time, was dangerous and claimed many lives, including Amundsen’s. Yet there was never a short supply of individuals who wanted to do them. Lessons from the Arctic mentions many such explorers (Robert Falcon Scott, Adrien de Gerlache, John Franklin, Umberto Nobile, etc.), not to mention their crews. What do you think motivated them to take such risks? Would you have done the same if you were given the opportunity?

For context, see Timeline, What About Amundsen and the North Pole?, the Gjøa Expedition and the Belgica Expedition panels.

Question 18

Do you think teamwork is important for exploring polar regions? How do you think the segregation between the regular enlisted and the military officers in Scott’s team affected their team dynamics?

For context, see Timeline and Settling in for Winter panels.

Question 19

Upon completing his expedition to the south pole, departed Antarctica without all of his equipment, leaving some of it behind. Why would he do this?

For context, see the Return panel.

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