Tuesday, 13 March 2012

The race for the South Pole

January 2012 saw the centenary of Captain Robert Falcon Scott reaching the South Pole alongside four other members of the British Antarctic Expedition.

To commemorate this expedition and that of Norwegian Roald Amundsen, the Natural History Museum has published two lavishly illustrated books which have just arrived in Official Publications.

Scott's Last Expedition by Steve Parker, focuses on the British efforts, from personnel and logistics in setting up the Discovery base to Antarctic observations and specimens. Finally Parker writes of the brutal journey to the South Pole and the search for the missing 5 explorers.

Race to the End by Ross D. E. MacPhee, tells the story of both Scott and Amundsen, comparing their different approaches in leading an expedition and in facing the challenges and hardships of the polar environment.

Packed with detail, both books are generously illustrated with maps, notebook sketches, plans, photographs, newspaper reports, and photos of artefacts such as snow goggles, food tins and dog harnesses.

Race to the End contains foldout panoramic panels from The Sphere's edition of February 2013 (see illustration above, which is taken from Stage VIII panel). Following Scott's journey and the tragic end of his expedition, this series of sketches reveals the jingoistic attitudes of the time more than the truth of what actually happened but is still fascinating to look at.

The National Library of Scotland holds a Mountaineering and Polar collection and the Learning Zone features Scott's last expedition.

Scott's Last Expedition is at shelfmark: OP3.212.10
Race to the End is at shelfmark: OP3.212.13