Polar Centenary

Zodiac Traversing a Glacier Face in Neko Harbour, Antarctica


I woke up too late to the fact that yesterday was the 100th anniversary of Roald Amundsen’s victory in his race with Robert Scott to be the first man at the South Pole. 14 December 1911. Poor old Amundsen. He seems to be an unsung hero in the English-speaking world, where we pay far more attention to Captain Scott’s tragic failure, so much so that we forget Amundsen was there first. Amundsen travelled to the pole and back in about the same time it took Scott to get there, beating him by 5 weeks. I suppose Amundsen’s problem is that, while he did something that was ridiculously dangerous and hard, he really just made it all seem a Bit Too Easy, by just getting on and doing it in a determined, Nordic sort of way. No drama, no fuss. There’s a message to all of us in there: whenever you do anything, never make it look too easy.

To celebrate the polar centenary and to somehow insert myself into such esteemed company, here is a shot I took to show the wall of ice that hampered my own assault on the pole. That, and oh, maybe another 3000 odd kilometers of similar landscape. And this is what it looks like in summer! I confess I didn’t make it any further than the Zodiac in the picture before scarpering back to the boat for a stiff single malt.

I don’t know if it’s just me, but I always feel terribly sorry for the polar explorers of a century ago, that they didn’t have all the really cool kit we get to buy now. Their sleeping bags were basically reindeer turned inside out. Not so comfy.

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