On 17 January 1912 Captain Robert Falcon Scott and his four companions of the British Antarctic expedition finally reached the South Pole, only to find that the Norwegian Roald Amundsen had beaten them to it by 34 days. The tragic drama of the British party’s desperate return journey, including the heroic suicide of Captain Oates, only became known after their final camp was found in November 1912 and Scott’s diary was recovered. They had died only 18 kilometres short of the supply depot that would have saved them.
In this double biography, Rainer-K. Langner describes a duel in the ice between two very different men, the experienced, meticulous Amundsen, who had learnt Polar survival skills from the native peoples of the Arctic, and Scott, a man of the Victorian Royal Navy, who saw courage, endurance and on-the-spot improvisation as the key to overcoming the obstacles on the way to the conquest of the South Pole, the last place on Earth unclaimed by man. The question at the heart of this book is why one reached his goal and returned safely, while the other did not.
This gripping account of one of the last great adventures in exploration, and of the men who were driven to pursue it, is both a compelling piece of historical writing and an intriguing study of the two men whose names will be forever linked with the South Pole.