Arctic Explorers - Reminder

Arctic Explorers and a Reminder -

I see that this week's WSJ "five best" is about books on Arctic Explorers. The fifth is by Roald Amundsen, the Norwegian explorer who was also the first to the South Pole.

Some years ago, I read The Last Place on Earth, a parallel biography of Amundsen and the English explorer Robert Falcon Scott. This account points very strongly to this conclusion: Amundsen spent his whole life preparing for his explorations, from his youthful cross-country skiing through an extended sojourn among the Eskimos through several Arctic voyages. Scott, by contrast, was ill-prepared, inefficient, and egotistical (thinking Amundsen should refrain from seeking the Pole because it was somehow "his"), and as you know his expedition all died (amongst other things, Amundsen managed to keep his dog teams for the entire journey; Scott brought ponies, who were all killed for food, and sent his dogs back long before the trip was over, hauling gear by human muscle). Yet Scott has been an inspiration to many - even to Ralph Vaughan Williams, whose Sinfonia Antarctica started as the score to Scott of the Antarctic - and was buried under stirring words from Tennyson: "To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."

In exploration as in warfare, there is something to be said for the fanatic, who will perform prodigious feats of endurance and bravery. But it is the professional who wins, and brings his men home alive.

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