This is the time of year where most people are focusing their efforts and thoughts upon the all-important North Pole, from where they hope to receive many new toys and treasures. However, during this week in 1907, the World’s greatest explorers were more interested in the other side of the globe and the South Pole!
I doubt that the majority of the American public could successfully answer the question: On what day did the first explorers reach the South Pole? Or, who was the first explorer to reach the South Pole? Nevertheless, the goal of reaching the South Pole was so important that two of history’s greatest arctic explorers raced each other in a contest to be the first to reach the South Pole; a contest which ended up costing one of the adventurers and many of his men their lives.
The story is recounted wonderfully in the book “The World’s Great Explorers
”. I find the story both fascinating and sorrowful. The two explorers were known as Robert Falcon Scott and Roald
Amundsen. Amundsen was an explorer who had reached fame for being the first person to successfully navigate the Northwest Passage (a long sought passageway through the North of Canada linking the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans). He had then planned to explore the North Pole and become the first explorer to reach the North Pole. However, upon learning that explorers Cook and Perry had already claimed the North Pole, he set his sights on reaching the South Pole. Unfortunately, there was already a British explorer named Frederick Scott, who had been raising an expedition
to reach the South Pole and claim it for the British Empire. Frederick Scott was an Officer in the British Royal Navy, who had already served as commander of a British mission to explore Antartica. Unfortunately, due to lack of previous arctic knowledge and experience, the mission had been unable to reach the South Pole. Now Scott, newly married and the father of a new baby boy, was raising funds to begin a new mission to claim the South Pole “for the Crown of Britain”.
Secretly, Roald Amundsen began his own expedition under the pretense of going to the North Pole. Only a few days after setting sail, did he reveal to the crew their true mission of reaching the South Pole and sent a telegram to Scott informing him of their destination. And then the race was on!
The acclaimed British explorer with the backing of the British Navy and previous experience on expeditions in the Antartic versus a Norwegian scientist armed with the skills and techniques taught to him by the Eskimos during his travels in Canada, both racing through sub-zero temperatures and snow storms to be the first to reach the South Pole. One would achieve success and glory and the other would never return.
Of course, you could learn how the story ends on your own but I encourage you to instead grab the book from your nearest library and take a break from the Yuletide stories of the North Pole to enjoy learning the true legend of the South Pole!