On December 14, 1911, Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen became the first person to reach the South Pole in Antarctica. It had taken years of preparation, and he and his team of four other men (along with their sled dogs) had spent nearly two months braving the extreme cold -- even in the midst of summer, which falls in December in the southern hemisphere, the highest ever recorded temperature at the south pole was -12.3 °C (9.9 °F).
Exploration can often be its own end, but Amundsen, Olav Bjaaland, Helmer Hanssen, Sverre Hassel and Oskar Wisting had another pressure: At the same time as they were making their way to the South Pole, a British party led by Robert Falcon Scott was making its own attempt. Amundsen departed on October 19, Scott on November 1; yet Amundsen reached the pole a full five weeks ahead of Scott.
Amundsen's "win" (if you consider it a competition) is attributed to many factors, not least of which was the use of sled dogs and an experienced handler, and skis. It did not go so well for the dogs, really. The team started with 52 sled dogs, killed 24 for food and returned with 11. The expedition ended tragically for Scott, too. Although he and his party succeeded in reaching the pole, they did not survive the return journey.
On December 14, 2011, however, history was made. Amundsen and his team planted the Norwegian flag in celebration of their journey. Four days later, they departed, leaving behind the flag and small tent called Polheim, with equipment inside for Scott and a letter addressed to the king of Norway.