The race to the South Pole

Mediciones cientificas en el polo sur

The conquest of the South Pole is one of the greatest achievements in the history of explorations. Almost against the clock, two groups of men disputed the honor of been the fist one to reach the end of the world in a race that left some of them in the way but placed them all in history. 

History wanted that two men coincided in their intent to reach the South Pole. For years, this achievement had remained unreachable with just one failed attempt by Ernest Shakleton in 1902.

By 1911,Antarcticawas still an unknown continent. The ends of the world were kept back only to explorers and just a few years before, Nordenskjold’s expedition had been the first to stay over the winter.

But those were times of big achievements. The world was kneeling under the feet of courageous explorers and the advances of science helped them to reach places that could only be imagined a few years before. After the alleged arrival to the North Pole by Cook and Peary, the last great conquest was the South Pole.

Roald Amundsen was a born explorer. He had taken part in expeditions withFridtjof Nansen and Adrien de Gerlache and was planning to head to the North Pole when he heard that his American rivals had already claimed that deed. Without doubt, he changed his course and headed south looking for one of the only places still unreached: the South Pole.

Robert Falcon Scott, on the other hand, is one of the biggest heroes of the British Royal Navy, an officer who had sailed with Ernest Shackleton and who led his expedition to the South Pole as a combination of patriotic service and scientific campaign.

In the end, several aspects made the final result in this race turn in favor of Amundsen. Planning, team members, and even luck were decisive in the final result.


One of the main aspects that made the race end in favor of the Norwegian team was the combination of a series of good decisions back inEuropewhile preparing the expedition. During his previous experiences in theArctic, Amundsen had learned about the survival and transport techniques of the inhabitant of those regions and decided to use dog sledges and skis as their main means of transport.

When he had to choose the members of his crew, he decided for those with better skills to ski and lead dog sledges.

Scott, on the other hand, was not able to use the mechanical vehicles he had taken with him fromEnglandbecause they proved to be improper for the Antarctic surface. And he had also chosen to takeSiberiaponies with him instead of dogs, which ended having hard times to walk on the snow and poor means to pull the cargo.

Different objectives

Amundsen is, and will ever be, remembered as one of the greatest explorers of all times. He wanted to be the first man to reach the South Pole and he made it.

Scott, on the other had, included in his itinerary the collection of scientific data and even some samples o rocks which slowed their trip and made the cargo heavier.

The arrival to the South Pole

After 57 of trekking, more than 1500 km. and with 10 less dogs, the team led by Roald Amundsen’s reached the South Pole. Behind them, on January 17, the English group found the worst scenery they could imagine, the Norwegian flag fluttering at the South Pole over a tent with food and a letter for the Norwegian king in case Amundsen couldn’t make it home.

Return from the South Pole

The trip back to the main camp was a nightmare for Scott’s crew. Tired, unmotivated, without supplies and in very poor health conditions, the distance that separated them from their camp where harder than they could ever imagine.

On February 17, Evans died because of his poor health condition. A few days later, when food was beginning to get extremely short, Lawrence Oates, sacrificed himself for his team mates. He left the tent saying: “I am just going outside and I may be some time” to never come back.

3 days later, Scott, Wilson and Bowers died while lying inside their tent just18 kmaway from the main supply deposit.