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Author Topic: Blaming Amundsen For Scott's Defeat? It's Back...  (Read 2741 times)


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Blaming Amundsen For Scott's Defeat? It's Back...
« on: October 04, 2011, 04:00:14 pm »

It's a shame when a country, beaten fair and square, decides to blame their loss on the victor's alleged unfairness.  If you wrote a synopsis on the race to the South Pole today and eliminated references to the Pole or the contestants by name, people would probably say "Interesting novel.  When it's getting published?".  It happened almost 100 years ago, and it's happening again today: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/sep/24/scott-antarctic-lies-race-pole?newsfeed=true

This time, however enough people cried foul that the Guardian locked the comments.  Here are my favorites:

The accusation Amundsen was responsible for the death of the Scott party by robbing them of the chance to walk home in triumph is vile.

Scott's incompetence killed his men. Tractors but no mechanic, living on biscuits of white flour and baking powder while Amundsen's were whole wheat and yeast, men who had never been on skis, leaky paraffin tins and poor sledges showing nothing was tested, inadequate food and too long hours man hauling each day, poor placement and marking of food supplies. Even look at the photos - they wore a coat and separate hat,. the Norwegians wore a hooded parka. The decision to take 5 to the Pole, an improvisation as 4 could not pull was the final fatal error - heating food for five people took longer and used more fuel.

Amundsen made the Pole a full month before Scott using tried and tested methods - even though he had to find a new and unmapped path.

You make your own luck when hauling all your food for five months over the Antarctic.
It is interesting - and very revealing - to compare Scott's expedition with Shackleton's 1914-17 Trans-Antarctic attempt a few years before.

That, too, was a disaster in terms of expedition objectives. But, in an extraordinary feat of leadership, Shackleton got every one of his crew back alive.

No mention was ever made of it in my school days. I'd never even heard of Shackleton until I became interested in polar exploration in middle age.

Scotts blunders, and is hailed as a hero who was the victim of some dastardly machinations. Shackleton triumphs in the face of appalling odds and sinks into obscurity. Work that one out.
And shame on the trolls abusing the memory of brave men!
So someone's a troll if they don't agree with your interpretation of history? I scent more British jingoism.

No one's saying Scott and his men weren't brave. But there's a difference between bravery and blunder.
As a friend of mine pointed out, 11 miles is at least 2 days' travel in the Antarctic, 5 or more in blizzard conditions. The Scott party were not "just short" of the food cache.

This article is an amazing piece of special pleading -- apparently it's sneaky and devious to actually know what you are doing?
Forget the penguin eggs and 35lbs of rocks - what this story reveals is the human capacity to endure, to fight and, ultimately, to die the most dignified death imaginable. It is a heartening tale.
I think the families of the dead might not agree with you, and I don't see what's dignified about being turned into a piece of frozen meat due to the follies of one man.

Shackleton was confronted with a similar situation, but in contrast, managed to extricate himself and all his men to safety, surely one of the greatest feats of survival; saving lives was his priority, not his place in history. Scott in his arrogance and determination to 'return in triumph' by dragging worthless scientific samples in a desparate effort to save face and reputation, ended up killing his men. Turning the disaster into a heroic epic was a shamelss piece of imperial historical revisionism and only obscures our efforts to reach a true and fair evaluation of these pioneering explorations.

Having read the article prior to posting my comments there are several points therein, which still bring me to the same conclusion about Scott:

- Bad planning
- Lack of foresight
- Mission creep...

to mention but a few
...That's how we were taught it at school. Scott was the brave, upright one and Amundsen was the sneaky foreign 'bounder'. We were told that Scott was a victim of continental duplicity, and some bad luck, too.

But consider a few points:

- You should never trust to luck in inhospiatble regions. If Scott was a victim of 'bad luck' that was his mistake.

- Amundsen spent years living in the Arctic, learning from the Inuit. Scott refused to consider their wisdom and knowledge.

- Amundsen used dogs. Scott refused to use dogs. Instead he took horses. There is ample food for dogs in the Antarctic and, when the going gets really tough, they can be fed on each other. All food for horses had to be brought in, coupled with the fact that horses sweat when working, so they got covered with a layer of ice when they stopped.

- Scott refused to use skis. Instead he and his companion walked all the way there and back. Walked!

- Scott relied heavily on mechanical sledges. But there had been little or no prior testing of these things and they either fell through the ice or broke down.

- Petty Officer Evans, though a huge man, had previously shown himself to be unsuitable for the expedition to the Pole. For example, there was evidence, in advance that he was prone to frostbite. And it appears he lost it, mentally, part of the way back. But Scott took him over others who would have been far more suitable.

Those are just a few of Scott's mistakes. He wasn't a victim of some foreign bounder or bad luck. He was a victim of his own mistakes. He relied too much on British 'stiff-upper-lippery' to get through.
One often fails to take into account the extent of Britain's "reach" still at the beginning of the twentieth century and how loath small countries like Norway were to risk offending this imperial nation. Amundsen was quite right to fear that if it was known at home that he intended to tackle the South Pole he would likely be stopped by the Norwegian government. His "ruse de geurre" should be seen in that light.
"Indeed. I would almost say it was more "diplomacy" than "duplicity".

It's really a shame that what would have been an otherwise touching and nice article was ruined by the petty jingoism and completely unnecessary hatchet job on Amundsen - neither of which add anything whatsoever to the piece.
Yes, in the circumstances the attempt to blacken Amundsen in that way has to be regarded as fairly pathetic and indeed rather detracted from a piece that was very moving. It struck a particularly jarring note in what was otherwise a sensitive and touching article...

Meanwhile, from Poland:



A demolishing of Scott apologists Jones and Solomon, and solid proof that Scott and Bowers exaggerated how bad the weather was, using the original weather data.  Furthermore, this research shows that in the published version of Scott's diary, Scott's temperature recordings were tampered with, switching the positive sign with a negative sign 29 times when Scott recorded a temperature above 0 F from November 7 until February 25, when Scott's own exaggeration required no editing to be made more sensational, that Scott's 9-day gale never happened, and that thus Scott's party's deaths were by choice rather than chance; incidentally, this neatly backs up Huntford's speculation that Scott convinced Wilson and Bowers to die with him in the tent.

I never started these topics and posts with the intent to bash the British, but after seeing this, I'd say Sienicki's work is karma for treating the WWII Polish squadrons shabbily and not inviting 303 Squadron to the first Battle of Britain victory parade.
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