Scott & Amundsen (CSA Word Recording) Audio CD – Abridged, Audiobook
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Fascinating, and a well-chosen narrator. (The Oldie)
NEW JACKET REISSUE with new interview material; and the ultimate story of the explorers and their race to the South PoleSee all Product Description
Top Customer Reviews
Scott's concept of "A victory more nobley and splendidly won" through man-hauling to the pole was in the whole spirit of their time and ours. Robert Peary had already discovered the North Pole and there was a reasonalbe expectation that there wasnt going to be a crock of gold or superman's ice palace at the South Pole so getting there was partly a scientific venture but mainly just for glory.
Scott did it without killing animals who hadn't signed up to die. He did it whilst achieving one of the most impressive physical feats in history. He did it with boxes full of scientific gear and samples and with no concept of a race initially in mind and he never abandoned his men or his principles It's also worth noting that he was following Shackletons footsteps and methods but with more pulling power and food to go the extra 100 miles. Common sense. Basically he achieved glory but died.
Amundsen wasn't so concerned with science, showed up with only winning fame in mind, gambled his mens lives on unknown territory purely to ensure that he was first, ditched his crew on the way home, ran almost all of his dogs to death on purpose and ate them which is ironic as technically his dogs, ahead of his sleds were the first beings to arrive at the Pole.
That will always win races but not necesarily hearts. From the respectful quotations after the Scott team was discovered, I think Amundsen realised that. Shame Huntsford didn't.
This book attempts to explain why this occurred, and sets out a dispassionate and non-jingoistic thesis that Scott failed because he did not learn lessons from other explorers, did not heed advice and generally planned and executed poorly. Other Amazon reviewers regard this as character assassination, but Scott comes across as a magnificent but tragic figure, whose personal shortcomings explain the failure of his mission. To those who view Scott as unimpeachably heroic, this doesn't sit easily.
Scott got thrashed to the South Pole by a lean, well-drilled team from an upstart nation (Norway having only achieved nationhood in 1905) which used appropriate technology and guerilla tactics.
The heroic Brits were trying to do it by majestic brute force - metaphorically and literally - and failed. There are obvious parallels to the contemporaneous fading of the British Empire.
This is a fast-paced and grippingly read story about some of the last epic explorers, and I very much enjoyed it, and also the CDs about Shackleton's Endurance expedition - an even more ripping yarn:
Endurance and Shackleton's Way: Both the Story and Leadership Lessons from the Antarctic Explorer Shackleton
The essence: Scott commands but Shackleton leads.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Scotts style was that of a traditional Naval officer in a service that had great traditions but had become stagnant as it entered the 20th Century. Scott gave an order and expected a cherry aye, aye sir, regardless of the difficulty in it's execution. He was also a man who was looking over his shoulder at the runners behind him. In his first expedition to Antarctica, he had managed to alienate one of his co-members and turned him into a fierce rival, Ernest Shackelton. It was this rivalry that drove Scott. Scott is also a perfect example of the concept of responding to new developements with "not invented here". Scott had several years between his two expeditions to plan, acquire proper material and train his expedition. The only original thinking was in the use of motor transport but then he fatally damaged this component when he jetisoned the principal technical officer that had worked on the motor sledges from the outset. Everything else was a rehash of his first expedition or that of Shackelton's. The use of horses in a desert environment, as the Antarctic is, was a tremendous failure that ultimately lead to the death of Scott and his party.
Amundsen on the other hand was a keen student of the exploration craft. He was constantly working to refine his equipment. He was not afraid to adapt the ways of the natives he met on his expeditions, as well as take suggestions and examples from other explorers, such as Frederick Cook. Amundsen never asked his men to do something he would not do himself. He set the example. Of course he made errors along the way but he recognized them, and even if he didn't admit to them directly, he learned from them. He was single minded and remained faithful to his mission. He did not allow himself to be distracted by sentiment and worry. He flet that the prize of being first at the South Pole was the only thing that mattered. He was a trail blazer. The scientists could come after him.
The two expeditions have been contrasted as a ful-blown assault and a raid. Amundsen's daring raid was a success and mounted as it was in the face of the challenge from Scott.
This book by Huntford is not to be missed. It is a first class effort by an author who understands both the British and Norwegian mindsets. I would urge that this book be required reading for all future military officers.
I recommend this book (or the abridged version that came out as "The Last Place on Earth") as a good starting place for people who think they might be interested in the "Great Polar Explorations," because, even if you disagree with his assessment of the leading characters, Huntford does a very good job of laying out the essential problems and dynamics of Polar travel (without becoming completely bogged down in minutiae).
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