Robert Falcon Scott R.N.-Noble, Heroic Explorer or Damned Fool?

I just finished a book about Scott’s disastrous Antarctic expedition. The man was lauded for his heroism, but I find much disturbing about him, both as a leader and an officer. His expedition was poorly planned-his friend and fellow explorer Nansen had urged Scott to use sled dogs-Scott ignored him, and had the men haul the sledges. He also kept a divide between officers and men-something that explorers like Shackleton and Amundsen would never have done. The mistakes and screw-ups on Scott’s expedition read like a comedy of errors-really strange, considering that he should have learned from his first expedition! He didn’t bring the right kind of food for his men (many contracted scurvey), the clothes were badly designed (Amunsen’s men never experienced the frostbite that Scott’s men suffered from), he kept trying to use ponies instead of dogs, and…he should have called off his march to the pole(when it became evident that there was not enough in the way of food and supplies to sustain his party on the trip back. In short, Scott succeeded in killing himself and the rest of his party, through arrogance, bad planning, and the inability to accept sound advice. So why is the guy a hero? I find it odd that he (Scott) is remembered today, while Amundsen (who planned superbly and brought all of his men back alive) is mostly forgotten today!

Lemme guess: the book you read was The Last Place on Earth, by Roland Huntford.* I enjoyed that book very much (I love reading about polar exploration disasters in the summertime in my un-air-conditioned apartment—very cooling :)), but Huntford definitely has an axe to grind.

*Hunsford? Can’t remember.

You might like to compare to The Coldest March by Susan Solomon, which has a lot of information about the weather conditions encountered by Scott on the fatal attempt to return to base. I haven’t read the book but I bought it for my mum for Christmas and she was impressed (top recommendation I’m sure you’ll agree!). From what I gather though she hasn’t damned Scott as thoroughly as he has been in the past, and has some interesting insights into possible contributing causes of the tragedy that don’t have to do with Scott being an upper-class get.


If you were ever to join the French Foreign Legion your induction ceremony would take place under a symbol of Camerone; the only battle that I am aware of where the Legion was entirely wiped out. Every American knows about the Alamo; but I know that I, at least, can’t name a single battle in which the Texans were successful without looking it up. My point? Just that there is something in the human psyche which loves a good tragedy.

And Amundsen is not so forgotten. Keep reading about the arctic and antarctic and you will find that he, along with Nansen and Peary, are the icons of excellent leadership. Forgotten men would be Elisha Kane, George Melville, Robert Bartlett, Soloman Andres, Adolphus Greeley and Vilhjalmar Steffanson (though perhaps he is best forgotten.)

More later, but it would be helpful to know which book you read.


sorry im a Texan

battle of san jacinto

730 mexicans captured ( and not put to death unlike the mexicans treatment of alamo survivors ) 630 killed in 18 minutes for a loss of 9 killed or mortaly injured out of 910 texan combatants. and the capture of the enemy head of state.

A panel on the side of the monument at San Jacinto today underscores the importance of the battle after more than a century and a half of reflection: “Measured by its results, San Jacinto was one of the decisive battles of the world. The freedom of Texas from Mexico won here led to annexation and to the Mexican War, resulting in the acquisition by the United States of the States of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, California, Utah, and parts of Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas and Oklahoma. Almost on-third of the present area of the American nation, nearly a million square miles of territory, changed sovereignty.”
sorry had to point it out . one of the most lop sided victorys in history . :slight_smile: