A hundred years ago, one of the great dramas in the history of exploration was taking place at the very bottom of the earth, a place so shrouded in mystery that it had not yet been mapped. After simmering for a long time, the “Heroic Age” of polar exploration had reached its apotheosis in the form of a mad dash undertaken by rivals to be the first to claim the planet’s last great prize: the South Pole.
The exploits of Scott and Amundsen have since become a metaphor for the essential yin and yang of human exploits. Their race brings all the opposites together: success and failure; life and death; good planning and bad planning. The great irony of the outcome is that the winner of the battle, Amundsen, ended up losing the war; public opinion preferred to laud the martyred hero left frozen in the ice as “Scott of the Antarctic.”