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Scott, Shackleton and Amundsen: Leadership, Character and Tragedy in the Antarctic

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New York, NY 2002 Trade paperback Good. Trade paperback (US). Glued binding. 324 p. Contains: Illustrations, black & white. Adrenaline Classics (Paperback).

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Overview

Between the middle of January and the end of March 1912 five men died in the attempt to return from the South Pole to their base on the edge of Antarctica. Their leader, the last to die and the man whose diary described their agonies was Robert Falcon Scott. The expedition had been beaten to the Pole by a band of racing Norwegians, led by Roald Amundsen. The bodies of the last three to die were found seven months later and, ever since, Scott's men have been British heroes. It is that legend, as much as their ordeal that is the subject of this book. Scott's men and the supporting characters, Amundsen and Shackleton, his rivals; Clement Markham, his discoverer; his wife Kathleen—give a fascinating picture of English society before the First World War. The story of the drama becomes also an illustration of human and social character. And, to the extent that Scott is legendary in England, the book tells something about the English and their attitude to duty. "When Thomson writes a book, it is time for celebration."—Booklist " "Thomson is an expert: an expert storyteller, critic, thinker, investigator and observer of the all-too-human landscape."—Steven Bach

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Here, film critic Thomson takes on the race to the South Pole between the English team led by Scott and Amundsen's Norwegian expedition. This 1977 history portrays Scott's story also as that of the English sense of duty. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Better known today for his books of film biography, history, and criticism (Rosebud, 1996, etc.), Thomson initially came to attention in his native Britain with this vivid 1977 analysis of the great race to the South Pole and the character of the men who led the efforts. Roland Huntford gained greater notoriety in 1979 with the far more trenchant Scott and Amundsen, but Thomson was the first to critically assess the myth of England's beloved national hero, Robert Falcon Scott, who perished with four of his men after their second-place finish in the 1912 race for the Pole. Slightly revised and with a new title for its first US publication, this (originally called Scott's Men) re-examines conventional wisdom regarding the expedition, from the choice of Scott as leader to his claim that he didn't much care if he got there first. Beginning with the details of how the expedition was manned and planned, the author develops a convincing thesis: national character allowed Norwegian Roald Amundsen to reach the pole first and with relative ease. Whereas Amundsen's men grew up on skis, Scott's were never comfortable with them; Amundsen was able to be unsentimentally efficient in the use of his dog teams, but the Englishmen's sympathy for the beasts led them to attempt to reach the pole by "man-hauling." From a rather slow beginning, Thomson proceeds to conjure the great drama that unfolded in the white wasteland. Scott's ideas of virtue, his rigid adherence to naval protocol, his reluctance to learn from the Norwegians, and his capricious decisions (the worst of which was sending three of his best men on a brutally debilitating trip to collect emperor penguin eggs before attempting the pole), allseem to declare the grim inevitability of failure. Nonetheless, Thomson maintains, "It does not mar Scott's heroism to recognize the confusing strain of misguidedness." Compelling, clear-eyed examination of Scott's actions and larger notions of what makes a hero.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781560254225
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 9/28/2002
  • Series: Adrenaline Classics Series
  • Edition description: Revised Edition
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 1,447,896
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.94 (h) x 0.91 (d)

Meet the Author

David Thomson

David Thomson is the author of A Biographical Dictionary of Film and many other books including Showman: The Life of David O. Selznick, Rosebud: The Story of Orson Welles, and In Nevada. He lives in San Francisco.

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