SOUTH POLE 1911-2011
From 25 October 2011 to 15 January 2012
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SOUTH POLE 1911-2011

Our intention is to try to get the South Pole around December 14th., 2011, and mark one of the great feats in the history of human expeditions.

Why this date?

At three o'clock in the afternoon of December 14th, 1911, the absolute silence of the southern end of the earth's axis was broken for the first time, by the sound of human voices. Where man had never put his foot before, Roald Amundsen and his four fellow Norwegians were congratulating each other. They were the first to reach the South Pole.

It was constituting one of the big achievements of the history of the explorations. Anyway, this event marked another milestone with some controversy: Briton Robert Falcon Scott, captain of the Royal Navy, reached the South Pole a month after Amundsen, but neither he nor other members of the expedition managed to survive the trip back. The bodies of Scott and his four companions were found on November 12th, 1912. A serial of calamities and worse planning of the trip made that Scott fail to reach the goal, where Amundsen reached success without too much difficulty.

Scott came to Antarctica in the Scottish whaling ship Terra Nova in January 1911. That same month came on board the Flam boat from Amundsen, at the Bay of Whales (About 60 miles closer to the South Pole than Scott's base in Mc. Murdo). Scott considered of vital importance to him and his country to be the first to reach the South Pole, and did not like the Amundsen's presence and intentions, because he considered it unfair not to have made ​​public their goal sooner. Amundsen really had announced that was preparing a North Pole expedition still a virgin spot in the world, but after being hit by an American called Robert Edwin Peary before he was going to start his expedition, he changed his plans and unannounced he went to conquer the South Pole, never conquered before by anyone.

When on December 14th., 1911 the Norwegians reached 90 degrees south, spent there three days before returning to their base camp, where arrived on January 25th. It took 97 days to and come back.

Scott reached the Pole on January 18th, 1912, and found there a tent with a Norwegian flag and a letter that said:

"Dear Captain Scott: As I am sure you will be the first to arrive here after us, we ask kindly to bring this letter to King Haakon VII. If you want, you can use any items left in the tent. Also, the sled can be left out can be useful for you. With my best wishes, I wish you a safe return. Best Regards, Roald Amundsen."

A huge strategic difference between the two expeditions led Scott to fail dramatically, and Amundsen succeeded. Amundsen used as transportation, four sledges and dogs from Greenland, led by the female Etah. All dogs were well trained and physically shaped, and Amundsen and his men controlled them perfectly. Amundsen sacrificed two thirds of these animals before they reach the Pole, when the load was lower and no longer needed, and reserve their meat for the return trip. In this way they reduced the weight of the food for the dogs and guaranteed supply of the dogs survived. Obviously they marked very well the area where they left the dead dogs to ensure the return encounter.

But Scott was reluctant to use this animal, because he hated the idea of sacrificing some dogs to feed others. For this reason, he drove back the dogs when the situation was getting complicated. He used three motor sledges which broke down soon, and 17 ponies carrying heavy bags with oats for food, which made them sink into the snow, and sweating throughout the body, and their skin was getting freezing. Scott had to order his sacrifice, and he didn't mark well its location in case they would need their meat on the way back.

Amundsen's expedition also had better equipment, clothing, more powerful and better food. These consisted of a daily ration of 380 grams of biscuits, 350 grams of pemmican (a concentrated food consisting of a mass of powdered meat, berries and fat), 40 grams of chocolate and 60 grams of milk powder. Scott also had lots of pemmican, but not so rich in fat as her rival, and also the effort to pull sleds were required intake of 5,000 calories a day, something that led to end the food much earlier.

Amundsen had learned survival techniques from the natives of the arctic, because he had done many expeditions before, which had not done Scott. Captain Scott basically followed the instructions and advice from their predecessors in the Arctic and their superiors in the Royal Navy, who refused or failed to learn much of Inuit Eskimos in their previous trips.

The first member of the Scott's expedition who died was Evans, who was injured in a fall. Oates died soon after, because he had lost the foot mobility because he was frozen, which forced his companions thing to carry him. Oates asked his companions to abandon him, but they flatly refused. Understanding that was a burden to others, he left the tent in the middle of a terrible wind storm to -43ºC, uttering the famous phrase that became him a national hero: "I just go out for a while." He never returned. That day he was 32 ​​years old. The other three members never found the place where the ponies were slaughtered left, to use his flesh as food, and died in the tent while they slept. Scott was the last to die.

While Amundsen made ​​an effective expedition without major setbacks, Scott and his men failed for not having a good trip planning: The starvation, physical exhaustion, extreme cold and scurvy (lack of vitamins) caused the death of the whole expedition.
Amundsen Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Courtesy of  The National Library of Norwey
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Courtesy of Scott Polar Research Institute
Courtesy of Scott Polar Research Institute
Courtesy ofWikimedia Commons
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