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Scott & Amundsen : The Race to the South Pole Unknown Binding – 1980


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Product Details

  • Unknown Binding
  • Publisher: Putnam - Autonym Library; 1st A edition (1980)
  • ASIN: B003L1XDAE
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)

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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful By "plusher@pop3.utoledo.edu" on October 19, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Roland Huntford has written perhaps the best study of polar exploration. The contrast between the two , Amundsen and Scott, is so striking, it is a wonder that Scott is generally remembered at all.His methods were so slack, his personality so ill-suited to the task at hand, his leadership bordered on being criminally negligent. Scott became that strange type of British hero, one whose incompetence is romanticized into fame( i.e. The Titanic or the Charge of the Light Brigade). Amundsen however, dispays all the qualities necessary for a polar explorer (or any leader). He was smart, adaptable, inventive, and organized. He did have some faults(somewhat unforgiving, vanity), but his results made him the greatest polar explorer of all time.His deeds included the Northwest Passage, 1st to winter in the Antarctic, Of course the South Pole, first to complete the Northeast and Northwest Passage, first to fly across the Arctic Ocean.He was a modern Viking, always seeking the unknown. It is somewhat baffling that he is not more recognized for his accomplishments.
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10 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Catharine T. Clark Sayles on December 2, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Scott and Amundsen is a study of two very different styles of leadership; that of Captain Robert F. Scott, RN of Great Britain and that of Roald Amundsen of Norway. It is a book well worth reading and is better than many contemporary leadership books. It is a study of men as well as countries. The Norwegians were able to maintain an oceanographic research vessel. The British had to make do with a converted sealing ship.
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.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 15, 1997
Format: Hardcover
Scott and Amundsen is a study of the contrasting styles of management of two of the great polar explorers. Scott was driven by an ambitious wife to be great. In the process of achieving immortal fame, he captained one ship into a collision, after which he recouped his fall from grace by embarking on a quest with the full backing of the Royal Navy. He chose a smorgasboard of options for getting to the South Pole: tractors, Siberian ponies, and dogs. He chose a like-minded crew of enthusiasts who were for the most part amateurs. Enthusiasm untempered with wisdom had a price. One tractor sank through the ice upon debarking, the other broke down with mechanical problems. The Siberian ponies ended up as dog meat, and the sled team saved a large portion of those who turned back from the Pole. Scott reached the Pole but died on the return trip with four companions. His diaries (edited by his wife) established his undying fame. Amundsen borrowed his ship from the other great polar explorer, Nansen. He handpicked the crew, each of whom were specialists. They trained extensively, adapted the garb and transportation of the Inuit, i.e. anoraks and dogs, used skis to break the trail in front of the dogs and reached the Pole nearly a month before Scott. The trip was carefully planned with the primary source of energy being meat. Initially it was seal meat, shot near the Antarctic shelf, and frozen. In the final leg, the trek became a literal "dog-eat-dog" experience, as planned. No man died, and the apparent ease with which Amundsen reached the Pole led some to believe that Amundsen's path was the easier. It was not. I was so impressed with this book that I wrote to the author and received an autographed copy of a British paperback recently issued by Grove and Weidenfeld.
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By SML on June 26, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
You wouldn't think that a bunch of guys running around in the ice and snow would be such a compelling read, but this is the book that started my fascination with the Polar Explorers of the 18th and 19th centuries, and made me want to learn more about my Nordic heritage. Whether you agree with Huntford's conclusions or not, his study of Nansen, Amundsen and other Norwegian figures and their country and culture is one that we seldom get from the general US education accounts of these explorations.

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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