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Charles Moore
Charles Moore

Race For The South Pole: The Expedition Diaries... ((HOT))

There was controversy almost from the outset, Scott set off thinking his would be the only party in Antarctica with an ambition of reaching the South Pole at that time. Amundsen was to try for the North Pole but changed his plans when he heard that Americans Cook and Peary had claimed to have reached there, fearing he would be financially ruined (not even telling his own crew until they were headed south) and so set the scene unilaterally for a "race". Amundsen returned home in triumph and was well received on lecture tours describing his achievement, this was soured when months later the news arrived that Scott and his party had also reached the South Pole but had all perished on the way back. Somewhat ironically Scott and his party became the heroes of the piece, Scott himself being held as a major national hero in Britain, while Amundsen not actually seen as the villain, was passed over for further acclaim.

Race for the South Pole: The Expedition Diaries...

''He was sent back anonymously, as in disgrace, because of the episode in the south,'' Dr Orheim said. ''I always felt that Amundsen was being vindictive, but then I read Johansen's diary. In it he said he wanted to separate and not follow the Fram. It is likely he was being ostracised.''

The next day, the 21st, brought very thick weather: a strong breezefrom the south-east, with thick driving snow. It would not have beena day for crossing the trap if we had not found our old tracks. Itwas true that we could not see them far, but we could still see thedirection they took. So as to be quite safe, I now set our coursenorth-east by east -- two points east was the original course. Andcompared with our old tracks, this looked right, as the new coursewas considerably more easterly than the direction of the tracks. Onelast glance over the camping-ground to see whether anything wasforgotten, and then into the blizzard. It was really vile weather,snowing from above and drifting from below, so that one was quiteblinded. We could not see far; very often we on the last sledge haddifficulty in seeing the first. Bjaaland was next in front of us. Fora long time we had been going markedly downhill, and this was notin accordance with our reckoning; but in that weather one could notmake much of a reckoning. We had several times passed over crevasses,but none of any size. Suddenly we saw Bjaaland's sledge sink over. Hejumped off and seized the trace. The sledge lay on its side for a fewseconds, then began to sink more and more, and finally disappearedaltogether. Bjaaland had got a good purchase in the snow, and thedogs lay down and dug their claws in. The sledge sank more and more --all this happened in a few moments.

There was a thick fog next morning, and very disagreeable weather;perhaps we felt it more after the previous fine day. When we passedthis way for the first time going south, Hanssen's dogs had falleninto a crevasse, but it was nothing to speak of; otherwise we hadno trouble. Nor did we expect any this time; but in these regionswhat one least expects frequently happens. The snow was loose and thegoing heavy; from time to time we crossed a narrow crevasse. Once wesaw through the fog a large open hole; we could not have been very farfrom it, or we should not have seen it, the weather was so thick. Butall went well till we had come thirteen and a half miles. Then Hanssenhad to cross a crevasse a yard wide, and in doing it he was unluckyenough to catch the point of his ski in the traces of the hindmostdogs, and fall right across the crevasse. This looked unpleasant. Thedogs were across, and a foot or two on the other side, but the sledgewas right over the crevasse, and had twisted as Hanssen fell, so thata little more would bring it into line with the crevasse, and then,of course, down it would go. The dogs had quickly scented the fact thattheir lord and master was for the moment incapable of administering a"confirmation," and they did not let slip the golden opportunity. Likea lot of roaring tigers, the whole team set upon each other and foughttill the hair flew. This naturally produced short, sharp jerks at thetraces, so that the sledge worked round more and more, and at the sametime the dogs, in the heat of the combat, were coming nearer and nearerto the brink. If this went on, all was irretrievably lost. One of usjumped the crevasse, went into the middle of the struggling team, and,fortunately, got them to stop. At the same time, Wisting threw a lineto Hanssen and hauled him out of his unpleasant position -- although,I thought to myself, as we went on: I wonder whether Hanssen did notenjoy the situation? Stretched across a giddy abyss, with the prospectof slipping down it at any moment -- that was just what he wouldlike. We secured the sledge, completed our seventeen miles, and camped.

We debated next morning whether it would not be better to take thesledges two by two to begin with; the glacier before us looked quitesteep enough to require double teams. It had a rise of 2,000 feetin quite a short distance. But we would try first with the singleteams. The dogs had shown that their capabilities were far aboveour expectation; perhaps they would be able to do even this. Wecrept off: The ascent began at once -- good exercise after a quartof chocolate. We did not get on fast, but we won our way. It oftenlooked as if the sledge would stop, but a shout from the driver anda sharp crack of the whip kept the dogs on the move. It was a finebeginning to the day, and we gave them a well-deserved rest when wegot up. We then drove in through the narrow pass and out on the otherside. It was a magnificent panorama that opened before us. From thepass we had come out on to a very small flat terrace, which a fewyards farther on began to drop steeply to a long valley. Round aboutus lay summit after summit on every side. We had now come behind thescenes, and could get our bearings better. We now saw the southernside of the immense Mount Nansen; Don Pedro Christophersen we couldsee in his full length. Between these two mountains we could followthe course of a glacier that rose in terraces along their sides. Itlooked fearfully broken and disturbed, but we could follow a littleconnected line among the many crevasses; we saw that we could go along way, but we also saw that the glacier forbade us to use it inits full extent. Between the first and second terraces the ice wasevidently impassable. But we could see that there was an unbrokenledge up on the side of the mountain; Don Pedro would help us out. Onthe north along the Nansen Mountain there was nothing but chaos,perfectly impossible to get through. We put up a big beacon where wewere standing, and took bearings from it all round the compass.

As we were advancing, still blindly, and fretting at thepersistently thick weather, one of us suddenly called out: "Hullo,look there!" A wild, dark summit rose high out of the mass of fog tothe east-south-east. It was not far away -- on the contrary, it seemedthreateningly near and right over us. We stopped and looked at theimposing sight, but Nature did not expose her objects of interest forlong. The fog rolled over again, thick, heavy and dark, and blotted outthe view. We knew now that we had to be prepared for surprises. Afterwe had gone about ten miles the fog again lifted for a moment, andwe saw quite near -- a mile or so away -- two long, narrow mountainridges to the west of us, running north and south, and completelycovered with snow. These -- Helland Hansen's Mountains -- were theonly ones we saw on our right hand during the march on the plateau;they were between 9,000 and 10,000 feet high, and would probably serveas excellent landmarks on the return journey. There was no connectionto be traced between these mountains and those lying to the east ofthem; they gave us the impression of being entirely isolated summits,as we could not make out any lofty ridge running east and west. Wecontinued our course in the constant expectation of finding somesurprise or other in our line of route. The air ahead of us was asblack as pitch, as though it concealed something. It could not be astorm, or it would have been already upon us. But we went on and on,and nothing came. Our day's march was eighteen and a half miles.

I have to be honest, I just don't see the purity of Hubbard's message but the fact that Wallace's book was an instant success and went through six printings the first year it was released has made me think long and hard about just why a story about two New Yorkers with a Canadian guide who stumble blindly through the Canadian wilderness hoping to explore and map a relatively unknown lake (Michikamau) should have resonated so much with a public that was largely untouched by any idea of wilderness. That fact that his book spawned further expeditions, even a race of sorts, only proves what Sarah Moss asserts in The Frozen Ship: "As the enduring and immense popularity of books about Arctic and Antarctic disasters demonstrates, the far north and south are places of death, where heroes go to test their heroism to its sublunary limits. More than that, they are places where the limits of heroism are recorded, written into the landscape and into the body and onto the notebooks or the wax tablets that lie beside the body." 041b061a72


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