people probably know is the fact Harley Davidson is just not a motorcycle, it is
just as much a brand, a myth and a way of life.
all been laid foundation off by Harley-Davidson over a long period of time, and
they began publishing their own magazine, where the target audience was the owners
motorcycles. The magazine was named "The Harley-Davidson Enthusiast".
magazine they covered most of what Harley-Davidson was involved with in the
scene in the United States, as well as a little from the rest of the world. There
were technical tips, and the Magazine subscribers could submit their own photos
and stories from
had with their bikes. A self-evident part of the magazine was to promote
various accessories, such as riding gear and bits and bobs to make your ride
standing out from the crowd.
"The Enthusiast" No. 15 from 1918 one can read on page 22 the
« To The
North-Pole witha Harley-Davidson."
text that follows is a letter submitted by the dealer Sørensen & Balchen
Kristiania – Norway. They announce; "We would like to inform that we have
sold a Harley-Davidson motorcycle to Captain Roald Amundsen, the explorer of
the Southern Pole”.
engine no. is 13428-M (Check your engine no`s folks!), and the bike is now on
polar ship "Maud" that will leave Norway and head for the North Pole
motorcycle will be used for pulling a motor sled in conjunction with a small
a longline that is used to measuring great ocean depths".
send a picture of the polar ship and a picture of the motorcycle as it looked after
assembly here in our workshop, where it was tested before being brought to the Ship.
Sverdrup, one of the expeditions members, have promised us pictures of the
motorcycle in use, as soon as the ship is back in Norway."
the text above, the obvious question is, what on earth should Roald Amundsen
with this Harley Davidson on his North Pole expedition with the exploration ship
Maud? Even a quality machine as a Harley-Davidson should get problems working
under weather conditions close to the North Pole?
all too interesting not to dig further into, and where is then better to gather
information than the www? As I started gathering more information on this Polar
expedition and the purpose of the Harley it soon became clear to me there was
either a linguistic misunderstanding when the Enthusiast editors printed the
letter from Norway, or there was an intentional misunderstanding to create more
buzz on the Harley Davidson brand name.
Sverdrup was the North Pole expedition`s oceanographer, responsible for pretty
much anything related to meteorology and observations. In the years after the
North Pole expedition Mr. Sverdrup published several books and scientific articles,
most of those are available online in the Norwegian National Library.
reading Sverdrup`s book, “Three years in the ice with Maud”, one will learn the
meteorological observations took place by launching a huge dragon with various
To get a
dragon air born is quite simple, but when the same dragon is to be pulled down
from 3000 meters height and strong winds, then we are talking off serious work.
In his book
Sverdrup explain how he and a team during 1917 & 1918 purpose built a
sledge including a winch to be able to pull back the dragon. This winch was
made so that it could be run by three various means of power. Those where either
by hand with a crank, a Bolinder marine motor OR the 5hp Harley Davidson drive
read further in the book the Bolinder was no success, as a result four men had
to swing the crank for two hours during March and April – 1919, to get the
dragon pulled back to the ship after each launch, even if it had only been brought
up to a height of 1000 meters.
And at this
point with four men exhausted from manual labor the Harley Davidson motor gets
it chance and gets mounted on to the toboggan.
& July 1919, the dragon would on several occasions climb up to 3354 meters,
a height that by no means scared the trusty Harley motor.
autumn of 1919 the toboggan is packed away and does not resurface until the
winter of 1922/23.
point the average temperature is as low as -50 degree Celsius, and the Harley
motor will no longer start. Again, the manual crank and four men is needed to bring
the dragon down.
weather starting problems where soon to be found caused by the Magneto`s lack
of willingness to make sparks at ice cold. As a result, Mr. O. Dahl who in the
book is described as a pilot of trade and an educated engineer, build a new
ignition system for the Harley motor. It is now a coil powered by a huge 120 V
spare battery for the ship Maud`s Delco lightning system. To get the spark at
the correct moment of the motors cycle, Mr. Dahl constructed an entirely new
ignition distributor system.
describes; "The distributor was made from the simple means at hand,"
Dahl's effort was to be described as an impressive piece of work.
now worked fairly-well, tough one still had to preheat both cylinders with a kerosene
blow torch before ant start attempt. By 1924 the motor worked flawless even at
temperatures -50 degrees, and it had no problem pulling down more than 3000
meters of steel line.
learned this much on the engines use and modifications, the obvious question to
raise; are there any pictures to be found of this Harley Davidson powered winch
good luck stood me by. A handful of photos from the expedition where the motor
is shown was found in our National library.
pictures prove the exaggerations in the Enthusiast magazine, only a Harley Davidson
drive train followed Mr. Amundsens North Pole expedition, not an entire bike.
I guess this
is still another victory for Harley Davidson, it could after all have been an
Indian motor that came along to the North Pole.