Saturday, November 15, 2014

Race to the Poles - Sir Ranulph Fiennes

Enough of fiction!  I'd met someone who works in Antarctica part of the year and that triggered me to pick up this book at my local used bookstore, Half Priced Books.  It's a defense of Robert Scott, the leader of the second group of men to reach the South Pole in the early 1900's.  Scott was vaunted as a hero when he and his team died on their way back to camp and was an inspiration to the English during World War I and II.  In the late 20th century, several authors re-visited Scott's journey, "debunking" his heroism and character.  Fiennes challenges those stories, providing an explanation and perspective on Scott in his time and Antarctica.

I knew very little about the Pole explorers, though I had read other stories about their adventures and tried to get through The Worst Journey in the World and couldn't finish it.  I'd read In the Kingdom of Ice this summer and enjoyed it.

Fiennes story give us the background of Scott's life and his career in the Royal Navy.  He lead British explorations to Antarctica in 1901 and then again in 1910, reaching the South Pole with four other men, five weeks after Roald Amundsen, a Norwegian and his team were the first to reach it.

The character and leadership qualities of Scott were evidence of the British culture of the times.  He's portrayed as a determined yet flawed man, and like all of his crew, possessing unbelievable stamina, strength and confidence in achieving his goals.  Their suffering in the cold and desolate landscape puts any personal whining about petty discomforts to shame.

Published:  2004  Read: November 2014  Genre: History (Adventure)

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