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The South Pole 2 Volume Set: The South Pole: An Account Of The Norwegian Antarctic Expedition In The Fram, 19101912: Volume 1 (Cambridge Library Collection - Polar Exploration) Paperback – 18 Jul 2014
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On 14 December 1911, Roald Amundsen (1872–1928) and his Norwegian team became the first humans to reach the South Pole, a month before their ill-fated British rivals. Reissued here is the 1912 English translation of Amundsen's two-volume illustrated account of how this extraordinary and perilous feat was achieved.
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He cared a great deal for his dogs (number one priority), the men and everything needed to get them to the pole and more importantly back again. He oversaw clothing, food, shelter, everything was checked to ensure the success of the expedition.
The South Pole is by no means a trip for the faint hearted, but to make the trip with a man with Amundsen's lively personality must have been a joy to the men who went with him. He had the utmost respect and admiration for other polar explorers including Shackleton and Scott. Amundsen succeeded because he put his faith in his dogs who were the engines of his expedition. Scott put his faith in the human body which doomed his attempt from day one. Amundsen must have been a very entertaining dinner party guest. I would recommend this book 100% to anyone who is interested in explorers, Polar or otherwise. It is very entertaining and a visual feast to the imagination.
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.
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