An Antarctic "must-read",
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This review is from: The Voyage of the Discovery (Wordsworth Classics of World Literature) (Paperback)
There has been much to enjoy in reading many of the great stories of the Heroic Age of Antarctic exploration. This was a bit of an eye-opener. Much of the commentary you find now on Scott has more to do with his later expedition, where we know the tragic outcome. I've yet to read Scott's own diaries from that time, but I think I might give them a try, because it was wholly enjoyable to read this account of his first expedition between 1902 and 1904. There's more to it than simply a day-to-day diary of the expedition, although Scott does quote directly from his own diaries on many occasions. Those quotes are well-used though, to enliven a fascinating story.
With hindsight, much of what's here could appear as a classic story of British stiff upper lip and derring-do in the slightly shambolic way that some would describe as typically British. The accounts of this expedition trying to work with sledge-dogs are almost sad now, when read in the aftermath of Amundsen's later expedition which treated the dogs in a much less sentimental way. It's clear that Scott did as much as he could to seek advice on polar travel from such experts as there were, but he obviously missed out a bit with the dogs. It's no surprise really that he put such little faith in dogs on his later expedition. However, he makes no secret of his naivety in many important aspects. There are many examples where he writes quiet openly about the mistakes that he made in planning or leadership, but it's equally clear to me that he did his best to learn from those mistakes.
Much of the most enjoyable writing here concerns not the day to day account of the travels, but the chapters giving more in-depth accounts - in particular, that on details of sledge-travelling, life in a tent at -30C, the food they ate and the general daily routine. In addition, Scott was a great observer and describer of the landscape in which he was travelling. Whilst this particular edition is almost without photographs, in many ways Scott's own descriptive powers make up for that.
This is most certainly a book that should be read by anyone with an interest in the early history of Antarctic travel and exploration.