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Scott, Shackleton, and Amundsen: Ambition and Tragedy in the Antarctic (Adrenaline Classics) Paperback – September 30, 2002

4.0 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Twenty-five years after its first publication, Thomson's myth-shattering chronicle of the Antarctic expeditions of Robert Falcon Scott is republished with a new title (it was originally called Scott's Men). The bibliography has been beefed up, and the author has incorporated a few references to discoveries made in the intervening years, but basically it's the same book. That's not a bad thing in this case. The long out-of-print original is just as eye-opening a book now as it was a quarter century ago. Thomson, a noted film critic and historian, reveals that Scott, who emerged from his disastrous 1901-04 expedition to the South Pole as an international hero, was not quite as heroic as he was made out to be. Similarly, Thomson looks behind the myth of Scott's rival Roald Amundsen and finds an explorer whose "lust for popular glory" led him to take unwarranted risks. Finally, Thomson reveals that friction between Scott and Ernest Shackleton led to Shackleton's own ill-fated (and recently much chronicled) polar adventures. Buy this if you don't have, or need to replace, Scott's Men. David Pitt
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Review

Booklist
"When Thomson writes a book, it is time for celebration."

Steven Bach
"Thomson is an expert: an expert storyteller, critic, thinker, investigator and observer of the all-too-human landscape."
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Product Details

  • Series: Adrenaline Classics
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; First Edition edition (September 30, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 156025422X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1560254225
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,202,325 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There are many books on the race to the South Pole. Thomson's book is one of the good ones. It is not a super quick read, but very manageable when compared to Roland Huntford's massive work "Scott and Amundsen." Although the title of Thomson's book includes the names of all three of the chief South Pole competing explorers, he covers Scott and his crew much more extensively than the other two (the original 1977 release of the book was entitled "Scott's Men," so Scott was the main focus of his study at one time).

Thomson admits that Scott was a childhood hero of his (pg. x). His coverage of Scott's background is at times deeply analytical, jumps around a bit and is rather flowery, even ending with a lengthy poem Scott penciled in his address book (pg. 24). His examination of Scott's marriage to a woman of means seemed overly analytical as well: "So long a history of family making-do had numbed Scott permanently, and the rift of self-doubt in his character has every debilitating trace of fallen gentry. Is there another lure in the south here? That it was a world free from the cost of living?" (huh?) (pg. 88).

Thomson's research had him abating Scott's heroic image by finding flaws in his judgment and character (i.e. not being open to the advice of others or learning from the past experiences of fellow explorers). Still, Thomson's book, although a little controversial in England when it was first published, doesn't go quite as far as Huntford's sometimes vicious account.

Due to the title of the book and the more thorough examination of Scott, it comes to reason that a reader may see the other two main players in ways they compare (usually favorably) to Scott. That is what this reader took from this book, anyway.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
David Thomson's "Scott, Shackleton, and Amundsen" is sub-titled "Ambition and Tragedy in the Antarctic", which nicely captures the thrust of the book. At the heart of the narrative is the race by a handful of competing explorers ambitious for the glory of being first to the South Pole.

First off is Shackleton's 1907-1908 expedition, which walked to a remarkable 88 degrees South latitude, literally within a few days march of the Pole. Shackleton made the hard decision to turn back because he correctly realized how desperately narrow his team's margin of survival had become. From Shackleton's attempt should have come hard lessons in just how strenuous and tenuous life would be in the extreme conditions of Antarctica.

Scott and Amundsen launched expeditions in 1911-1912. Amundsen, a Norwegian with considerable experience in the Arctic, learned from previous expeditions and traveled by the proven means of skis and dog sleds. His team made a remarkably fast and ultimately uneventful run, achieving the South Pole first.

Scott's expedition experimented with primitive motor vehicles and ponies, both badly unsuited to the conditions, and ended up dragging a sledge over the ice and snow. Scott's team persisted through a variety of challenges all the way to the South Pole and the crushing discovery that they had missed being first by a month. The struggle back from the Pole ends in tragedy, as insufficient supplies and cold weather sap the team into extinction just eleven miles from a vital depot of supplies. Ironically, Scott was at the time more famous than either of his competitors, thanks to the heroic cast given his failure by his journal, which was recovered and published by a rescue team.
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Format: Paperback
This is a pretty good review of the short era of Antarctic exploration. It's not nearly as detailed (or long) as Huntford's tome, "The Last Place on Earth," and so comparisons between the three explorers are a little more "watered down." Even so, Thomson is a tad more sympathetic of Scott without becoming a cheerleader; in fact, Thomson basically reaches similar conclusions about Scott's failings as an expeditionary commander, but manages to point out these failings without vilifying Scott (something that Huntford has been accused of doing). "Scott, Shackleton and Amundsen" also gives more detail about the men under Scott (the original title of the book was "Scott's Men") than is found in most other books about Scott et al., and I found this refreshing. If you're looking for a good review of the Antarctic saga that can be read in a few nights, then this is the book to read.
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