Race for the South Pole: The Expedition Diaries of Scott and Amundsen by Roland Huntford - review by David Crane

David Crane

The Icemen Cometh

Race for the South Pole: The Expedition Diaries of Scott and Amundsen


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On 12 November 1912, some eleven miles south of One Ton Depot on the vast and featureless expanse of the Ross Ice Shelf, a young Canadian physicist called Charles Wright spotted a small, dark object off to his right. From a distance it was impossible to make out what it was, but as he drew nearer, the six-inch tip of a tent pole protruding from the snow told him that he had found what he and his companions were searching for. ‘I tried to signal my party to stop and come up to me,’ Wright wrote, recalling the moment he cleared away the drifted snow to expose the green ventilation flap of Captain Scott’s last tent, ‘but my alphabetical signals could not be read by the navy and I considered it would be a sort of sacrilege to make a noise. I felt much as if I were in a cathedral and found myself with my hat on.’ 

It is intriguing to think what the ‘Heroic Age’ of polar exploration would look like if Wright had missed that tent pole. For almost a hundred years now the discovery of Scott’s final tent has been central to the history and mythology of the age, but it is

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