Comparison of the two Expeditions
There were a few decisive factors that allowed Roald Amundsen to be successful in being the first to reach the South Pole. Other factors led to the downfall of Robert Falcon Scott.
The method they used for movement of personnel and equipment was a very important factor that distinguished the two men. Amundsen in his successful use of dogs to pull sleighs with equipment and men undoubtedly increased his speed tremendously. They also used skis which helped them much on the soft snow. Scott, on the other hand, tried out a variety of equipment and strategies. He used ponies, motor sledges, dogs and of course man-hauling if everything fails. Ponies proved impractical and many had to be killed upon reaching the first and second deport. The motor sledges were experimental, one was lost on the movement of equipment from the ship to land and the rest failed at the very early part of the journey. Man-hauling, of course, worked and was a ‘more noble’ form of transportation and this, undoubtedly, drained down the strength of the men and caused their eventual deaths. Speed-wise, man-hauling was slower than dogs. The men also used skis but it was pretty much amateurish.
About why Amundsen reached South Pole earlier, there were various reasons. Amundsen, of course, had the advantage of secrecy. His expedition had been planned to reach the South Pole first, with him having some information about Scott’s expedition. For Scott, Amundsen going south was too much of a shock. They had no ideas about Amundsen’s plan – they even presumed that Amundsen was heading for the pole from the other side of the continent. Amundsen’s method of transportation proved to be much more efficient than Scott’s and this was another main reason why Amundsen succeeded. Of course, Amundsen had much better weather than Scott and blizzards thoroughly hampered Scott’s journey.
Some people felt that whole team of Scott would not have perished if not for the challenge Amundsen had posed to Scott. My opinion is for this. I must admit that Amundsen was an excellent planner, Scott’s planning still needs much fine-tuning. Man-hauling had drained the physical stamina of the men. Adverse weather also took its heavy tow on them. Supplies and fuels ran out due to an overlook in planning. All these were the main reasons that caused their deaths. Nevertheless, Amundsen’s expedition still heavily affected Scott’s planning. They were in a race, Scott and his members could not give up and turn back, they had to secure the title of first men to the South Pole for England. It was a disgrace if they had turned back. That, I felt was the main reason why they did not turn back even when they were utterly exhausted before reaching the pole. They would have gotten back to earlier if they turned back early and this would have prevented them from being trapped in a blizzard which stopped them in their treks when they were just 22 miles to reaching the next depot.
Some people despised Amundsen’s expedition, especially the British. They felt that Amundsen’s sudden change of plan and his abrupt challenge to Scott was unprofessional.
Clements Markham, from the Royal Geographical Society, put his spin on the situation when he stated that "She (the Fram, Amundsen’s ship) has no more sailing qualities than a haystack. In any case, Scott will be on the ground and settled long before Amundsen turns up, if he ever does". Markham reported to the RGS secretary that Amundsen had "quietly got a wintering hut made on board and 100 dogs and a supply of tents and sledges. His secret design must have been nearly a year old. They believe his mention of Punta Aranas and Buenos Aires is merely a blind, and that he is going to McMurdo Sound to try to cut out Scott...If I were Scott I would not let them land, but he is always too good-natured".
Scott wrote, "There is no doubt that Amundsen's plan is a very serious menace to ours". Although Scott took the news in good stride, many of the other members were very angry and wanted to march right into the Bay of Whales and have it out, once and for all, with Amundsen. Cherry-Garrard wrote, "We had just paid the first installment of making a path to the Pole; and we felt, however unreasonably, that we had earned the first right of way".
Until here, some of you might have felt that the British were quite unreasonable and that Amundsen’s challenge was fair and justafiable. The British were clearly upset for essentially one basic reason: the view that an explorer may have an exclusive right to his own territory was an unspoken given. As the Frenchman, and fellow Antarctic explorer, Jean Charcot said, "There can be no doubt that the best way to the Pole is by way of the Great Ice Barrier, but this we regard as belonging to the English explorers, and I do not propose to trespass on other people's grounds". This was an unspoken ethnic that explorers were supposed to follow. Amundsen had certainly flaunted it in his using of the Ross Ice Shelf as a route to South Pole.
My personal opinion is that Amundsen should have thought carefully about his decision. He managed to get the South Pole first, he and his expedition members were respected for their skillfulness with dogs and careful planning; they were loathed for their explorers’ ethics. Because of this, the heroic deaths of Scott’s four expedition members overshadowed Amundsen’s victory.
Roald Amundsen had everything ready for the victory, he had the careful planning and had relatively good weather. On the other hand, Robert Scott had made flaws in his planing and calculation, these combined with the adverse weather, undoubtedly led to his downfall. Nonetheless, he and his expedition members secured a place in history, ones who were courageous heroes, full of perseverance, overcoming all odds but eventually still failed. They were hailed as national heroes.
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