Robert Falcon Scott

Overall Rating: 10
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South Pole


Author: Robert Falcon Scott
Title: Diary 1910-1912
Time: 1910-1912
Destination: the South Pole
Length: almost 2 years
Type: some sailing, then mostly walking
Rating: 10/10

The tragedy

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

The story: Almost exactly 100 years ago, most places on Earth had already been conquered by man. So, naturally, explorers had to start to look for new challenges – the highest mountains, the most remote deserts, the poles.

death in the cold

RFS had made previous attempts at the South Pole, but had failed, and this one was going to be it: he made preparations and announced his plan to the scientific world. But upon arrival in the Antarctic, he had to find out that a certain Norwegian explorer called Roald Amundsen had also secretly started his own expedition to the South Pole that same year. Naturally, both men and their teams started a race to the pole. And while Amundsen was the first man at the South Pole and made it back to tell his story, RFS got in second, died, and his body stayed forever in the cold.

an edited journal

What we are looking back here is an edited version of his journal, which later expeditions were able to retrieve when they found his dead body in the ice. And a breathtaking read it is. Sure, there are some boring parts about equipment and planning, but RFS’s deeply poetic soul resounds in many of his words, and while he doesn’t know that he is bound for his own demise, knowing about it is a hard thing to bear. His joy, his fears, his hope, and the heartbreak when he arrives at the pole, realizing that he lost the race… and then the bitter way back…

so tense it’s breathtaking

This was one of the most intense books I have ever read. I would lay awake at night, my heart pounding heavily, and I would wish for him to just give it all up and turn back. Write some shit about penguins, to hell with the stupid pole! I would hate Roald Amundsen for his sneaking around, for his win and his success, while four men were bound to die in the ice for nothing at all.

Robert Falcon Scott’s shocking last words

This edition includes letters written by RFS to his wife and his son. At the time he already knows that he was dying. With one of his last pen strokes, he asks his journals to be sent to his wife. Then he crosses out the word “wife” and changes it to “widow.”

Heavy stuff. 10/10.

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