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Race for the South Pole: The Expedition Diaries of Scott and Amundsen Audio Download – Unabridged

3.8 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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3.8 out of 5 stars
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
For those who know little of the background of polar exploration through the centuries, this book may present as a lucid and essentially true account of 'race' between Robert Falcon Scott and Roald Amundsen a century ago. In my view, it is not.

The author of 'Race to the South Pole', Roland Huntford is an accomplished researcher and writer on all things polar and has written what I regard as outstanding and authoritative biographies of Nansen and Shackleton. He is also the man who in 1979 published 'Scott and Amundsen', which virtually for the first time questioned received wisdom on the virtue of Scott as an explorer and sought to boost the merits of his rival Amundsen, who Huntford considered had been under-rated by history. In so doing, Huntford opened a can of worms, with protagonists of the Scott and Amundsen camps battling the issues out. Some accept all the arguments which Huntford promulgated to denigrate Scott. Others such as Sir Ranulph Fiennes have come to Scott's aid and refuted many of his assertions. Now 30 years after his original publication, Huntford repeats his argument.

I admire both Scott and Amundsen, as well as many other heroic explorers who first ventured into the unbelievably hostile environments of the North and South Poles a century ago. Having read much on the subject, I have also come to believe that Huntford made some telling points in his criticism of Scott, which have not been satisfactorily countered, and I also believe that Amundsen deserves most of the plaudits now heaped upon him - by any account he was an outstanding human being.

But, but, but - I take issue with Huntford. What does his book 'Race for the South Pole' consist of? Basically - 4 elements.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Veteran polar expert Roland Huntford's idea of putting the expedition diaries of Scott and Amundsen side by side is, quite simply, inspired. Here for the first time we have the two men's accounts juxtaposed, day by day. Huntford's commentary is sparse but always to the point, interpolating expert knowledge to explain when necessary what the entries actually reveal. The true reasons for Amundsen's success and Scott's failure become, by the end, almost self-evident. Amundsen executed his task with meticulous planning, leaving nothing to chance. Scott on the other hand is woefully unprepared. His failure is not so much a tragedy caused by the elements and bad luck, but his poor organisation. Had he and his men learned to ski before setting off for the Antarctic, and had they had adequate clothing (Huntford quotes an old saying 'there is no bad weather, only bad clothing') they would almost certainly have survived. Had they used dogs instead of attempting to man haul their supply sledges, they might even have given Amundsen a run for his money. Scott ran out of food because he failed to plan adequately or give clear orders to those left at base camp to top up his food depots along the route home. The other thing that shines through the diary entries is the difference in character of the two men. Scott is autocratic, pessimistic and illogical, constantly looking to blame the weather, bad luck and his men. Amundsen on the other hand is relaxed, involves his team in all his decisions, and does not believe in luck. Facing the same conditions as Scott with equilibrium, he triumphs over difficulties with weather and terrain.
Once the two journeys for the Pole are actually underway, the book becomes increasingly gripping, and unputdownable for the last 100 pages or so.
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Format: Paperback
Roland Huntford (aka Horowitz) is a South African-Lithuanian with a grudge against Great Britain. He finds an outlet for his scorn in defaming the great British Antarctic explorer, Scott. This is not a true and fair account of the polar explorations of 1911-13. Instead Huntford lets his simmering Hate get the better of him; he ditches dispassionate history in favour of a simply untrue account of a "race" between Amundsen and Scott. In fact there was no such race. First due to Amundsen's deceit, Scott did not even know that there was a competition until too late to prepare for it. Second, Scott's expedition was a complete scientific programme and not a mere publicity seeking adventure. Third, Huntford's interpolations are not legitimate objective commentary - they are just slurs. Who can refute such a slur? Certainly not the dead. Huntford is not an expert on Antarctica. Readers are recommended to purchase the works of people such as Ranulph Fiennes in preference to this wicked libel.
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