'The South Pole' is an account by Roald Amundsen of his expedition to the Antarctic in 1910-12. In fact, it is 4 books (or more) in one, for it includes an introductory history of polar exploration, an account of Amundsen's own overland journey to the Pole, a further account of the parallel part of the the expedition - an exploratory sledge journey - and a narration of the full journey of his ship the 'Fram', which sailed an incredible 54,400 nautical miles taking the main party to and from the Pole and conducting scientific research. In addition there are several detailed appendices.
The book is written in an incredibly easy-flowing and eminently readable style.
Three aspects in particular made a deep impression on me. First was the man himself - Amundsen. Incredibly brave and courageous; incredibly competent, and a much loved leader of his men. In terms of leadership, he was quite different from Captain Scott - his rival. Whereas Scott organised his expeditions on naval disciplinary lines, with officers and ordinary expedition members strictly separate, Amundsen, though as much if not more a leader, regarded his men as his equals - and shared everything.
Secondly, the expedition was professionally driven. Prior to this 2+ year undertaking, Amundsen had not visited the Antarctic before. Yet his preparation was meticulous, foreseeing almost every eventuality. In particular, he knew that his only way to achieve success was by reliance on dog-hauled sledges and his use of over 100 dogs is described beautifully.
Thirdly, the book demonstrates the remarkable levels of skills which men possessed a century ago, before the modern technological innovations which proceeded apace in the 20th century. Sailing skills were exceptional. Long before GPS, with relatively primitive instruments, latitude, longitude and altitude were calculated with unerring accuracy both at sea and on the ice bound land-mass. The ability to survive in an unrelenting climate, for many days and months on end, by careful planning, prodigious knowledge and an aptitude for innovation when circumstances dictated, were second-to-none.
This is a superb book. Highly recommended.