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Scott vs. Amundsen. It wasn't meant to be a race, but race it becomes, as the world awaits news of the first to reach the Pole. What follows is a tale of heroism, foolhardiness, selflessness and self-delusion, in a land where victory must be secondary to survival. Written by
The song that Olav Bjaaland (Ståle Bjørnhaug) sings when the Norwegian team breaks the "farthest south" record is "Nordmannen", also called "Millom Bakkar og Berg". The lyrics are by the Norwegian poet and linguist, Ivar Aasen (1813-1896), best known for developing the "landsmaal" written language from rural Norwegian dialects. The music is by Ludvig Lindeman (1812-1887). See more »
On his return from the South Pole at 'Framheim,' Amundsen learns that the credit for reaching the North Pole has been taken away from Dr Frederick Cook and given instead to Peary. In reality, Amundsen was well aware of the controversy *before* his departure for Antarctica, and to avoid any question that he had not reached the true South Pole due to faulty navigation, staked out an area of ten miles around what he believed to be the Pole itself. See more »
So, here we go again - Scott had it harder than Amundsen, Amundsen was simply doing a "stunt", and so Scott was the more "noble".
If you compare their diaries (and you can now, as Huntford did), Scott stayed in his tent on days when Amundsen and his crew did their fifteen miles (they did fifteen miles a day unless they were completely blizzard-bound - some days in their fur underwear and nothing else). And they had the same weather on nearly the same days. Scott started later, since his teams couldn't travel when it was really cold, so he was out on the land-mass later than Amundsen by nearly a month (which is why he encountered colder temperatures). Scott assumed that changing his headcount from four to five men at the last minute would make no difference in the food supply when they'd very carefully planned exactly how much food they'd need for a four-man team, with no contingency for delays. Amundsen ensured that he'd have at least double the amount of food and fuel he'd need for the whole trip.
As to dogs and ponies - Scott didn't like dogs, because he didn't understand them, either how to work with them, nor how to drive them. The first time he saw dogs being driven properly was on the barrier by Cecil Meares. The scenes where Meares drives past them, and is later found relaxing, waiting for the rest of the teams to arrive are taken verbatim from Scott's and Meares' diaries. Ponies are NOT appropriate for the Antarctic environment, since they have to pull their own food for every mile they're going to walk. Dogs could eat seal and penguin, both of which are native to the Antarctic; they could also eat each other, if necessary.
Amundsen had to trail-blaze an entirely new route, through and over some of the most difficult terrain the Antarctic has to offer. Scott had a map of his route up to the last ninety-seven miles. The Beardmore glacier (Scott's route) is a nice, long, slow climb to the Pole. The Axel Heiberg glacier requires planes flying over it to use their maximum rate of climb; Amundsen and his crew pioneered a route through the ice falls of the Heiberg in less than a week.
And yes, there was a conspiracy to tart up Scott's diaries for public consumption. Scott's widow, Kathleen, worked with J.M. Barrie (of Peter Pan fame) to edit his diaries, making him more of a heroic figure, and cutting out the more disparaging comments Scott made about his companions.
Planning is everything: Scott and his companions died of starvation and scurvy; Amundsen and his crew gained weight on their trip.
I'm not saying that Scott wasn't a brave fellow or that his journey was less than that of Amundsen. I can't imagine man-hauling a 300 lb sledge for hundreds of miles. The tragedy of Scott is that, had he done his research (as Amundsen had), he wouldn't have had to, and he might have beat Amundsen to the pole.
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