Two of the most famous journal entries in the entire history of Antarctic exploration come from the very first expeditions to reach the South Pole. The contrasting fates of the Norwegian party, led by Roald Amundsen, and the British, led by Robert Falcon Scott, are embodied in the emotions and words written upon reaching 90 degrees South, first by Amundsen, on December 17, 1911 at 3:00 p.m.
So we arrived and were able to plant our flag at the geographical South Pole. God be thanked! ...I had decided that we would all take part in the historic event; the act itself of planting the flag. It was not the privilege of one man, it was the privilege of all those who had risked their lives in the fight and stood together through thick and thin. It was the only way I could show my companions my gratitude at this desolate and forlorn place.
One month later, on January 17, 1912, Scott and his 5-man party arrived at the Pole. The glory he sought for himself and for his country had been pre-empted.
Bowers' sharp eyes detected what he thought was a cairn...We marched on, found that it was a black flag tied to a sledge bearer... The Norwegians have forestalled us and are the first to the Pole. It is a terrific disappointment, and I am very sorry for my loyal companions...The Pole. Yes, but under very different circumstances than we expected... Great God! this is an awful place and terrible enough for us to have laboured to it without the reward of priority... Now for the run home and a desperate struggle. I wonder if we can do it.
All Scott's party died on the journey back, after terrible hardships. But even in their final struggle, they chose not to abandon the scientific samples they'd collected, and exhibited a stubborn heroism that reaches out across the years to all who read their words today.
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