The christening of MS Roald Amundsen

December 6, 2019 • 2:00 pm

On November 7, as I wrote on the next day, the MS Roald Amundsen, the ship I inhabited for five weeks in Patagonia, Antarctica, and the South Atlantic, was actually christened in Antarctica.  I believe this is the first ship of any kind christened there, and, as the ship’s website notes, the christening involved not the traditional breaking of champagne over the bow, but the breaking of a chunk of polar ice.  This in fact was how the Norwegian explorer Amundsen himself christened his ship Maud in 1916, though the ship wasn’t in Antarctica and the ice wasn’t polar:

It is not my intention to dishonor the glorious grape, but already now you shall get the taste of your real environment. For the ice you have been built, and in the ice you shall stay most of your life, and in the ice you shall solve your tasks. With the permission of our Queen, I christen you Maud.

— Roald Amundsen
I find these words strangely moving, and I have to say that I teared up a bit as Karin Strand repeated them before she released the rope holding the chunk of ice. You can see the event below. Most of us were outside the ship, hovering nearby in Zodiacs to watch the ceremony. The Amundsen’s sister ship, the MS Midnatsol, was nearby, with passengers on both ships cheering.  Karin Strand is the Field Operations Manager and Expedition Teams Manager for Hurtigruten (and therefore my Highest Boss), and is regarded as “the godmother of the Amundsen.” She’s been on trips to Antarctica over 140 times. Beside her is the ship’s captain, whose name I can’t recall.

Here’s the official video of the christening:

And an official photograph, probably taken from the Midnatsol. I was in the row of Zodiacs to the right, second from front:

My own photographs of what it was like to be in the Zodiac. You can see the unbroken hunk of ice hanging from a rope.

The Midnatsol (“Midnight Sun”), with everybody watching from the top deck:

And, appropriately enough, a group of gentoo penguins porpoised by during the ceremony, as if to affirm “In the ice you shall stay.”

Here’s Karin and the captain greeting people after the ceremony. They look quite happy!

It was, I must say, a unique experience. Karin’s words about the uniqueness of Antarctica are absolutely accurate, and I still miss the place greatly.

26 thoughts on “The christening of MS Roald Amundsen

  1. A wonderful moment. I’m really impressed that so many people had the chance to be there – as well as the gentoos. Thanks for the imagery.

  2. Those seem like much nicer ships than those absurdly large ships that Carnival and Norwegian cruise lines use.

    1. Carnival & Norwegian are absurd monstrosities for the family market sailing in warm waters. Their latest ships are around 140,000 GT compared to MS Roald Amundsen’s 21,000 GT – I saw a drawing of a Carnival one with theme rides on the top deck! [Not sure if planned or built].

      The Hurtigruten boats seem to have a mode for the Antarctic with approx 500 passengers [more wouldn’t work of course] & double that for their elsewhere operations in the Antarctic winter part of the year. I suppose at capacity of around 1,000 half the passengers must be day-trippers on Norwegian multi-stop routes & ferrying & cruising the American [n & s] west coast & ferry type operations in home waters. Or can they reconfigure to have more cabins 6 months of the year? Interesting economics.

  3. A very moving ceremony indeed.

    But, Jerry, you used the terms ‘christened’ and ‘christening’ throughout. Do you really mean this? Why not just ‘naming’?

      1. Many apologies if my comment annoyed you.

        My immediate reaction was that ‘christening’ is an overtly Christian ceremony, which entails committing its subject (whether a non-consenting child, or an inanimate object) to the protection of God. I just don’t think it’s relevant or appropriate.


      2. I don’t think “christening” a new ship is any more religious than that ship’s “maiden” voyage is sexist.

  4. Eldest gentoo penguin: Now please float for the national anthem

    (a moment of silence followed by loud trumpeting noises)

  5. Touching ceremony, it have felt an honor to be there.

    What does “Hybrid Powered” mean; diesel/electric, nuclear/electric? I don’t see any exhaust stacks, so nuclear seems reasonable.

    1. There’s four exhaust stacks grouped 2×2 sticking out the top of the superstructure – they’re round & black & canted back at a jaunty ship angle [straight up looks silly & slow anyway].

      This is a diesel/electric. 4 x Rolls Royce diesel engines that convert immediately to electricity which goes to battery storage and/or immediate use. No drive shafts – each thruster & mechanical device is purely electric fed.

  6. I agree that the ceremony was surprisingly moving. Talking to Karin that evening she told me that she was fighting back tears as she made that speech, and even Captain Kai Albrigtsen had tears in his eyes!

  7. Such an appropriate christening and just too cool that the gentoo penguins drove by. Thanks for the great photos.

  8. Maud – there’s a Queen Maud’s Land in Antarctica, no? I used to use that in a trivia question as a kid (name some places whose name starts with “Q” and *not* Quebec).

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