Amundsen reached the South Pole with Diesels Motorer

On December 14, 1911, an expedition led by Roald Amundsen was the first-ever to reach the South Pole. As help in accomplishing this, he had one of the world's strongest seagoing vessels, equipped with an engine from Diesels Motorer. This was good advertising for the engines, and they were subsequently marketed as Polar engines.


Advertisment for Polar diesel engines on ships built at the Öresund shipyard, 1938.

Around the turn of the last century, there was heavy competition to be the first to reach the world's most remote locations. One of those participating was the Norwegian polar explorer Roald Amundsen. His first major expedition took him to Antarctica as a member of a Belgian team. The goal was to localize the magnetic South Pole. After this expedition, Amundsen began leading his own, such as the 1903 expedition that was the first to navigate the Northwest Passage between the Atlantic and Pacific. Roald Amundsen had set his sights on becoming the first to reach the North Pole, with the research vessel, the Fram. The Fram had previously been used by another Norwegian explorer, - Fridtjof Nansen. Nansen had built the ship for an expedition to the North Pole, and it was to be the strongest ship ever. He wanted to find out if the ship could be frozen into the ice and then drift with the ice to the North Pole. Although Nansen did not reach his goal, his method proved to be feasible. When Amundsen took over the Fram, he equipped it with a 180-hp diesel engine from Diesels Motorer in Sickla – which later became the home of the merged company AB Atlas Diesel. He also received advice from the company on the type of fuel oil that worked best under the anticipated difficult conditions. An expedition to the North Pole however, was never made. While preparations were still underway, his competitor Robert Edwin Peary got there first. Amundsen secretly changed his plans and instead set his sights on the South Pole. It was not until the Fram had arrived in Madeira that he informed the crew – and his South Pole competitor, Robert Falcon Scott – of the actual goal. On January 14, 1911, the ship reached the Ross Ice Shelf on the Antarctic continent, and the expedition set up a base camp, known as Framheim. It was closer to the South Pole than Scott's camp, but on the other hand, the region was entirely unexplored. Amundsen had to find a new passage through the Transantarctic Mountains. On December 14, 1911, along with four companions Olav Braaland, Helmer Hanssen, Sverre Hassel and Oscar Wisting, Amundsen reached the South Pole after having walked for nearly two months. The entire expedition managed to return to the Fram and then home again without a single human casualty. Scott's expedition was not as fortunate. They reached the South Pole five weeks after the Norwegian expedition, but no one returned alive.

Engines renamed Polar


Interior from the workshop at Atlas Diesel, 1918–1925.

Despite the hardships of Antarctica, the engine in the Fram worked exceptionally well, so well that when Amundsen returned to civilization, he sent a telegram to Diesels Motorer. The text of the telegram sent on March 13, 1912 from Hobart in Tasmania was short but concise: "Diesel engine excellent. Amundsen." Amundsen's success had major importance for Diesels Motorer. The expedition inspired the company to market all its diesel engines under the Polar name, and business bloomed. Sales constantly increased. In 1916, engines were sold with a combined output of 31,900 hp, compared to 4,500 hp in 1910. The engines also increased in size. In 1916, propulsion machinery consisting of two Polar engines with a combined 3,300 hp was delivered to the Norwegian tanker the M/S Hamlet. These were the most powerful diesel engines built to date.