Aug 19, 2009

Racing to the Poles (part 2)

Captain Robert F. Scott, the British explorer, wanted to be the first person to reach the South Pole. His efforts to do that made his name famous – but he never lived to enjoy that fame.

In 1911 he and four companions set out, and for more than two and a half months they battled their way across hundreds of miles of one of the coldest and most desolate landscapes in the world so that they could have the honor of being the first people to reach the South Pole.

Professional polar explorers of the time recommended methods and equipment that they had found most suitable. But Scott had his own ideas. He decided to use ponies rather than sled dogs, and he chose food, clothing, tents, and other supplies that the men with more experienced questioned. Nevertheless, he knew what he wanted. Despite the hard going and the serious problems they had with their equipment, Scott and his men pushed themselves onward because they knew others also wanted to be first. On January 17, 1912, battling against a headwind in temperatures of 22 degrees F, they reached their goal.

“The Pole. Yes,” Scott wrote in is diary, “but under very different circumstances than those expected.” They found flags snapping in the wind, flags left 34 days earlier by a party of Norwegian explorers led by Roald Amundsen. Extremely disappointed, Scott and his men turned back northward. By now they had to pull their sleds by hand – their ponies couldn’t take the extreme conditions. The deadly cold penetrated their clothing, which lacked the extra protection of furs. They hadn’t cached enough food for their return. Finally, in mid-March, frostbitten and starving, they couldn’t go any farther. Seven months later a search party found their bodies and the diaries they had kept of their struggles. They were only 11 miles from a large cache of food and supplies.

Scott’s bravery in his death has made his name legendary, but had he listened to the advice of those with more experience, he and his four companions need not have died when they did. As Amundsen, the explorer who reached the pole first, said, “Bravery, determination, strength they did not lack. A little more experience would have crowned their work with success.”

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-source Way To Go

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