Roald Amundsen

Overall Rating: 8
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South Pole


Author: Roald Amundsen
Title: The South Pole
Time: 1910-1912
Destination: the South Pole
Length: almost 2 years
Type: some sailing, then mostly on sleds
Rating: 8/10

The professional

[Note: I’ve been reading a German translation of this book.]

The story: RA originally didn’t want the Pole in the South, instead he wanted the one in the North. But when he found out that he wasn’t going to be the first up there, he chose to secretly engage in the race to the South Pole against Robert Falcon Scott instead.

winner at the Pole

And he won. He was the superior planner and a sober-minded professional, and he didn’t rely on ponies or on experimental electrical sleds, but on dogs. In fact he took so many canines with him that he and his team made it to the South Pole in a breeze, skiing almost all the way, despite all the dangers – and they even slaughtered a bunch of their dogs for meat!

Roald Amundsen’s dry humor

So what about the resulting book? Honestly, I didn’t have a very good opinion of this guy before I read it. My tears over Scott hadn’t even had time to dry yet. But, to my surprise, I found out that I really enjoyed RA’s writing: He tells his story in a laconic voice that never sounds pretentious or self-absorbed. There is a certain sense of dry humor and self-consciousness leaking through some of his words, and I found that very charming. Obviously, much like Scott’s account, this one also has some boring parts about technical stuff and equipment as well.

down to earth professional

But RA’s story is well worth reading, especially since it deals with some of the questions that his rival had no chance to answer. A down-to-earth type of travelogue by a professional.


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