Saturday, 17 November 2007

Fiennes validates Scott

A few weeks ago I read my best Antarctic expedition book yet; and I have a fabulous collection of Arctic and Antarctic expedition books.

Ranulph Fiennes has written a gem. "Race to the Pole" details Captain Robert Scott's polar experiences and, of course, his tragic 1911 race to the pole (which was not the Amundsen-Scott 'pole at all costs' race it has been made out to be).

Scott's reputation was trashed by William Huntford in his "Scott and Amundsen" book where he made Scott out to be a moron who didn't know what he was doing (use of horses, the depot saga, the skiing issue) and that his death was due to poor planning.

On the contrary, Scott was thorough in his preparations and planning. His return trip from the pole was doomed by unpredictably disastrous weather conditions that brought extreme cold rarely encountered in the region.

Fiennes has man-hauled across the continent and as such is the only Scott biographer to have been there, done that and got the frostbite. Fiennes understands polar exploration and his insights and experiences blow life into this century-old story of bravery and adventure.

This book is well-written, fluent and gripping, as we'd expect from Fiennes. If you have an interest in the Antarctic and polar expeditions, this book is an essential read.

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