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on 4 March 2004
I believe that R Fiennes has written a very important book.
I have been collecting Antarctic literature, for the period between 1901 - 1922 since the early eighties. I have all the journals, several biographies, many first editions and even one of Scott's first expedition signed by Peter, whom I also knew and visited in Slimbridge. I was fortunate enough to spend 17 days camped, with a friend and Argentinian colleague, just a stone's throw from Scott's hut when part of the NZ Antarctic Research Team of January 1996. I spent many, and happy, hours just sitting in the hut as I had been given the key for the whole period.
All of my "knowledge", and opinions, of this period has come from the various journals and biographies written. I do not claim any expertise, just a love of the period and of Antarctica itself .
I have never been able to understand why biographers believe that there was rivalry between Scott and Shackleton or why, in order to revere one of the explorers of this time it is necessary to pour scorn on another. Why each explorer of this period cannot be admired for their own individual contributions to Antarctic exploration. For myself, I have always regarded Scott as the amateur and Amundsen as the professional, but without denigration or honour being applied to these words. Much like the Players versus the Gentlemen in sixties cricket parlance, or ProAm golf today.
There can be no doubt that Huntford did a huge disservice to the memory of Scott without really adding anything to the understanding of polar exploration. It was as unnecessary as it was transparently erroneous. I sincerely hope that Fienne's book will be widely read, it deserves to be both for the additional material and insights it has brought to the subject as well as re-dressing the balance of Scott's achievement.
33 comments59 of 65 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
On the cover of my copy of this book is a head and shoulders photograph of Scott which, almost eerily, reminds me of a similar study of author Ranulph Fiennes from another work. These two men have more in common than just the South Pole.

Over the years, Scott has come in for considerable criticism particularly by those who have no understanding of the subject. This can be likened to a non-driver who believes he is able to describe exactly what it is like to survive a racing car crash at over 180 mph. Personally, I want to hear the driver's account. Scott, however, did not survive his final expedition and that is why so many "non-drivers" believe themselves qualified to comment on his life, his achievements and, of course, his death - and do so from the warmth and safety of whatever centrally-heated base camp they occupy.

Such armchair experts deliberately set out to uncover whatever flaws exist in the makeup of any person who achieves greatness and often invent defects which never existed. They do so in order to reduce that person to whatever common level is occupied by themselves. Consequently, Scott has been subjected to the wrath of writers whose own understanding of hardship is limited to the inconvenience of running out of petrol on a motorway. It takes, therefore, an explorer and writer of the magnitude of Ranulph Fiennes to produce an accurate biography of Captain Scott if only because he possesses an unparalleled understanding of the subject, of the man, of the hardships and of the drive and ambition - because he too has been there and done that. Add to that, the simple fact that Ranulph Fiennes is also able to provide an outstanding "read" and this book does supreme justice to the topic.

Ranulph Fiennes has led many expeditions, has conquered both Poles and in 2009 climbed Everest at the age of 65! Whilst this book is about Scott and not the author, they are relevant factors when considering the content. In an outstanding and excellently crafted work, Captain Scott is revealed in a way not seen before - if only because no previous author had the expertise to understand what happened and why. As Scott and his life are revealed page by page, so Fiennes tackles each success, each obstacle, each failure and each point of later criticism as it was reached in the life of the man himself. Expertly drawing on his own relevant experiences precisely at the right time, Fiennes provides the reader with a thorough awareness of exactly what confronted Scott. In explaining each occurrence, he offers the reader a thorough comprehension of the situation and the attendant problems so that we are finally able to understand. And it all comes about because both subject and author are, in many ways, kindred spirits.

That said, this is not a work of hero worship. Certainly not. This is an honest appraisal of a great man who had equally great flaws in is character and eventually caused other men to die. It is, therefore, an exposé of the truth behind that man and of the legend he has become. Along the way each myth is not just discounted, it is considered almost as though a formal commission is tasked with establishing the truth. By adopting this approach, Ranulph Fiennes provides a long-overdue definitive account of the life of Captain Robert Falcon Scott. Perhaps, he may now be finally allowed to Rest in Peace.

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on 28 August 2014
First Ranulph Fiennes' book I've read and wow couldn't put it down. It a wonderfully written biography of a great man (men) attempting something us armchair explorers can only gape at in open mouth awe! It takes you through a journey of intense planning, immense dedication and unbelievable bravery. It is a must read for anyone wanting to read about true pioneers in a place that would scare the pants of most people (me included).
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VINE VOICEon 28 November 2004
This book is a biography of Captain Scott's ill fated attempt to reach the South Pole - but it does not read like a dry biography - more like a thriller. You know the ending but the way the story is written you get a real sense of just how close Scott came to getting home safely.
I would take the opinion of Ranaulph Fiennes on Scott over any of Scott's detractors because of what he has done himself - including a frank admission he would have died on one occaision but for modern communications.
This is a great story, well told , about a leader and his team who achieved so much in Antarctic exploration and died in the end attempting a feat of strength and courage that can rarely, if ever , be matched.
I'm delighted to have read this book and for its copious use of notes taken at the time to restore the reputation of a very brave man
Scotts last words in his note to the public make the book worth reading because they set his actions in context - read the book and see what I mean
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on 31 January 2014
A most enjoyable and enlightening read. This book brings the whole Scott legacy into true perspective by someone who has been there and experienced the harrowing conditions of Polar exploration and the various effects the conditions can have on decision making and judgement.
I would recommend this book to anyone who is prepared to look at Captain Scott's exploration exploits and approach to what must have been a monumental expedition at a time bereft of government subsidies and modern technology and give due credit to a very great leader of men.
A book that, I think, elevates Captain Scott back up to the pedestal of national status that he justly deserves.
A highly recommended purchase.
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on 5 January 2004
I have not taken the time to post a review at Amazon for some time but after reading this excellent biography I had to sit straight down and start typing. This new biography on Captain Scott by Ranulph Fiennes will rank in my top ten books for 2003. I have to confess that I have no in-depth knowledge on artic travel and exploration other than having read a few good books on the subject.
Having said that, out of the books that I have read on the subject this has to be the best so far. In any book I read I always have a look at the background (or pedigree) of the author. In this case Ranulph Fiennes has the personal experience of many years of artic travel & exploration to back up his claims and theories in his account of Captain Scott.
By referring to his own experiences in the same areas and similar circumstances you get a much better idea of what was possible and why and what wasn't possible and why. He is also able to put to rest many of the myths and fairy tales surrounding Scott's South Pole expedition and the fate of himself and his companions.
After finishing this book I really felt I had a much better understanding of what these brave men attempted and why they failed or didn't fail depending on your point of view. As other reviews have indicated, maybe the author tends to lean to Captain Scott's defence too much but then again maybe Captain's Scott's reputation needs to be picked up from the dust of history and given a good polish again, its well deserved.
I would have no hesitation in recommending this book to anyone who wants to know what really happened to Captain Scott. Anyone who enjoys accounts of adventure, of man overcoming adversity or just a decent history book to read, this will suit them down-to-the-ground. I am indebted to the author for passing on his passion for this man, I have learnt a few things and I am grateful that I had the opportunity to read such a well-researched and well-written book, well done to Mr Fiennes!
From the back cover: "The real story of one of the greatest explorers who ever lived by the man described by the Guinness Book of Records as the world's greatest living explorer."
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on 17 February 2012
I settled down to read this book after reading Shackleton's South, almost won over to a way of thinking about Scott before I even started this book. The passion of an explorer comes through in the first section of the book as does an enormous respect for Scott.

At the beginning of the second part of the book where RF examines the evidence supporting the attacks on Scott as a man and an expedition leader, I was worried that I would be far less interested than in the first section which I found gripping and exciting - the mood of the writing changes and I soon "came round" and found it hard to put it down.

This is an excellent "first book" for anyone reading about Antartic expeditions - thanks to Sir Ranulph Fiennes for taking so much trouble to get it right.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 14 January 2012
This is a wonderfully readable account of Scott's life and in particular his voyages to the South Atlantic and his polar exploits. Ran Fiennes, who knows a thing or two about polar survival from his own quite magnificent feats, lays out clearly the evidence which should go a long way to re-establish Scott's reputation as a leader and explorer.

This book is quite captivating, and at times reads like a well written novel despite its historical content. The account of the return journey from the South Pole is excellent, drawing you in, and making you feel as if you were sharing the experience. Although you know the outcome only too well you find yourself hoping that all would be well.

Quite superb
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on 8 March 2015
I think this is one of the better books on Scott. It's hard to imagine what these pioneers did in Antartica and very easy to criticize. Well written, very imformative, and a fantastic true story. At times I really felt I was there, good job, well done.
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on 19 February 2014
If you want a balanced opinion about Scott read this. Written by a man who has been there, and knows what it is like at the limits of human endurance. Don't bother reading Huntford's book, Fiennes exposes him for what he is, a charlatan.
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