Did You Know That In 1910s Two Men Came up With A Treacherous Plan To Race To The South Pole?

The heroic tale of early explorers Roald Amundsen and Robert Falcon Scott both set out in competing Antarctic expeditions in a race to be the first person to reach the geographic South Pole.

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Both men would eventually made it but sadly, only one returned to tell the story. “Another hard grind in the afternoon and five miles added,” Scott, the British explorer note in his journal. “Our chance still holds good if we can put the work in, but it’s a terribly trying time.” This was mid-January 1912, and the 43-year-old Royal Navy officer was about 800 miles into his travels in his attempt to get to the geographic South Pole.

At the time it was one of the last unexplored places on the globe. He had a team of five with him and they had already encountered some pretty extreme conditions, experiencing frostbite and a number of blizzards along the way. With only 80 miles left to travel, they had no idea if they were going to be the first group or the second. Scott had previously led an Antarctic mission in 1902 but the real calling came after his vessel, the Terra Nova came ashore at Ross Island in Antarctica’s McMurdo Sound.

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There, he and his team did research and collected rock samples and wildlife. Before the end of this trip, he made a vow “to reach the South Pole and to secure for the British Empire the honor of this achievement.” Knowing that another explorer, Roald Amundsen, had the same goal, gave him a sense of urgency. Amundsen was a 39-year-old Norwegian and had been on many previous adventures all over the world.

Without informing has backers or even his crew, he steered his ship Fram in the direction of Antarctica with the goal of getting to the South Pole. He sent a short, sharp letter to Scott which read: “Beg leave to inform you Fram proceeding Antarctic. Amundsen.” The race was indeed on. Amundsen has a few advantages, starting at a point 60 miles closer than where Scott left from and he had no research obligations, unlike Scott.

Amundsen finally set off on October 20, 1911 and Scott on November 1. After an arduous journey, Scott and his team made it to the pole on January 17, 1912. The team soon discovered the remains of Amundsen’s camp:”Great God!” Scott wrote in his journal. “This is an awful place and terrible enough for us to have labored to it without the reward of priority.”