Amundsen/San Francisco Connection

On a recent visit the the City by the Bay, I went to Golden Gate Park. At the entrance is a statue of Roald Amundsen.

I found that a bit odd. Any place has the opportunity to honor whomever they wish, but does Roald Amundsen have any special significance to San Francisco?

Did you try reading the inscription? Sometimes those things are just chockablock with clues.

I’ll take a wild guess and suggest that the Norwegian Stockbrokers Club of Greater San Francisco came up with the idea back around 1912 or so, when Amundsen was the first at the South Pole (or maybe in the 1920s, after Amundsen died in an airship crash near the North Pole). After a few pints of glogg, of course. If this is the case, NSC/GSF should be carved on the base somewhere.

You see this often in memorials put up in the late 19th-early 20th century, when American ethnic groups stayed in enclaves and celebrated themselves a lot. The Music Garden in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, for example, has busts of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, and the usual suspects, plus guys like Karol Szymanowski, erected by the White Eagle League of Polish Haberdashers, Canarsie Branch.

(No offense directed at Szymanowski fans. I happen to love KING ROGER.)


Yep. I did read the inscription. It said “Roald Amundsen.” That’s it–nothing else. And I saw nothing in the visitor’s center referring to him.

I can’t find any info on the Amundsen statue in the book on Golden Gate Park I was checking. It was published in 1955 and has hundreds of photos of different statues in the park and Amundsen is not to be found.

However, on the West Coast, Norwegian seamen have established clubs and churches for their countrymen when they are away from home. I would think that one of those groups in San Francisco ponied up some bucks to put up the statue.

I thought of another reason for an Amundsen statue in San Francisco.
When Amundsen completed the first successful navigation of the Northwest Passage back in 1906, he stopped for a month or so in San Francisco.

…And those big-hearted San Franciscans put up a nice statue of him! What a great place!

I was knockin’ around Russian Hill on a business trip to Frisco a year or so ago, and came across a nice little memorial to George Sterling. Any town that would put up honors to both Amundsen AND Sterling, that’s MY kinda town!