You are on page 1of 4

Captain Scott: a second-rate hero?

| World news | The Guardian

Página 1 de 4

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Find out more here

Captain Scott: a second7rate hero=
After a lifetime's research, Roland Huntford thinks he has finally nailed the myth of Scott of the Antarctic: far from being a national hero, the explorer was an amateur whose incompetence condemned his men to death
John Crace 3he %uardian, ;onda! ') Septe#ber '(1( '(.49 &S3

Captain Scott writing his journal at the expedition base in 1911. Photograph: Scott Polar Research Institute, Uni ersit! o" Ca#bridge$%ett! I#ages

It was hard to escape Captain Scott i" !ou were a child growing up in &ritain an! ti#e between the 19'(s and the 19)(s. *e was the #an who #ade the ulti#ate sacri"ice on his return "ro# the south pole+ the #an who achie ed a greater nobilit! in co#ing second than his ri al did in co#ing "irst+ the #an who e#bodied the noblest ,ualities o" stoicis# and su""ering. In short, he was the ,uintessential &ritish hero, the enerated subject o" school asse#blies e er!where. -nd then . al#ost o ernight . the Scott #!th ended in 19)9 with the publication o" Roland *unt"ord/s boo0, Scott and -#undsen. 1or the "irst ti#e, the &ritish and 2orwegian expeditions to the south pole were "orensicall! exa#ined side b! side and Scott was "ound seriousl! wanting. 3he undisputed "acts re#ained the sa#e . that -#undsen and his tea# reached the south pole on 14 5ece#ber 1911 using s0is, dogs and sledges, be"ore returning sa"el! to their base ca#p just o er a #onth later. -nd that, a"ter Scott/s polar part! reached the south pole on 1) 6anuar! 191' using s0is, dogs, sledges and #an7hauling, the tea# died one b! one: 8dgar 8 ans died o" exhaustion, "rostbite and star ation on or around 19 1ebruar!+ Captain :ates, his leg "rost7bitten and gangrenous, wal0ed to his death on or around 1) ;arch+ and Scott, <ilson and &owers, too tired to go on, died in their tent out on the Ross Ice Shel" on or around '1 ;arch. 8 er!thing else in the stor!, howe er, was up "or grabs. <here -#undsen/s attention to detail #ade his expedition see# no #ore de#anding than a s0iing trip in the 2orwegian outdoors, Scott/s appeared a disaster al#ost "ro# the o"". -ccording to *unt"ord/s account, he ignored the basic lessons o" pre ious polar expeditions b! "ailing to either

http:!!www$guardian$co$u%!world!# 1 !sep!#&!captain-scott-antarctic-a'undsen-south-pole 3 ! "!# 13

serious writers and acade#ics began to rewrite histor! in Scott/s "a our again. ta0ing an extra person with hi# to the pole when his supplies had been based on a tea# o" "our. the second the unedited diaries. . 3he "irst o" these was a histor! o" s0iing. @&e"ore Scott le"t "or the -ntarctic. the &ritish public had little interest in hi#.#an eager to #as0 his "ailure b! pla!ing up his #ission/s scienti"ic endea our. within '4 !ears or so.uate+ a #an who describes one o" his d!ing colleagues as stupid+ a #an who. and in particular to the Scott and -#undsen stor!. 3wo !ears ago he wrote 3wo Plan0s and a Passion and this wee0 he publishes Race "or the South Pole: 3he 8xpedition 5iaries o" Scott and -#undsen.uentl! #ade a irtue o" http:!!www$guardian$co$u%!world!# 1 !sep!#&!captain-scott-antarctic-a'undsen-south-pole 3 ! "!# 13 . <orst was the eiled accusation that because o" all this.@ -#undsen/s success in reaching the south pole was broadcast al#ost a !ear be"ore news o" Scott/s "ate reached the outside world.@ sa!s *unt"ord. -nd !et. Susan Solo#on suggested Scott had just been unusuall! unluc0! with the weather. 3hose with the real abilit! in extre#e conditions went into #ountaineering+ the unwritten stor! o" &ritish polar exploration is the #en who didn/t go. though. It was a da#ning indict#ent: one "ro# which rehabilitation see#ed i#possible. his own reputation is now inextricabl! lin0ed to both #en. writes that he can still sal age his reputation i" he can get the news to the outside world be"ore -#undsen. -#undsen/s UC lecture tour in the autu#n o" 191' was a success and there was "eeling that the best #an had won. because he has brought proper sledge co#passes. that his preparations ha e been inade. *ere we "ind a #an gi en to bla#ing his colleagues "or his own "ailings+ a #an with a strong sense . -#undsen is again achie ing his expected dail! distance.Captain Scott: a second-rate hero? | World news | The Guardian Página # de 4 ta0e enough dogs or learn how to dri e the# properl!+ he too0 #en who barel! 0new how to s0i+ he ca#e unprepared "or extre#e te#peratures+ he was indecisi e. .uite earl! in the expedition . -#undsen/s lead s0ier. *unt"ord. -ll that changed in 191? when news ca#e through that Scott and his #en had died. on realising he has #issed out on being the "irst to the pole. . heightened b! entries "ro# the diaries o" :la &jaaland. which had reduced his "rost7 bitten #en to #an7hauling in a bli>>ard. @*e was considered an in"erior ersion o" Shac0leton Awho then held the record "or the going the "urthest southB and polar exploration wasn/t big in the public i#agination. *e has de oted the last ?4 !ears o" his acade#ic career to the stud! o" polar exploration . the &ritish public were "airl! sanguine.@ sa!s *unt"ord. 3he 8xpedition 5iaries brea0s new ground b! letting both #en li e and die side b! side in their own words. -nd so. Scott had e""ecti el! conde#ned his tea# to death. while so#e o" the &ritish newspapers were a little hu""! about -#undsen ha ing concealed "ro# Scott his intention o" heading south. on the er! da! Scott is co#plaining about unexpectedl! cold conditions. @3here was a public outpouring o" grie" al#ost on a par with what we later saw with the death o" Princess 5iana. who #a0es the whole thing sound li0e a da! in the 2orwegian #ountains. *unt"ord has restored all the cuts that Scott/s "a#il! and literar! executors had #ade to his published diaries. dis#issing *unt"ord "or not being an explorer hi#sel"+ in the sa#e !ear. @3he &ritish ha e "re. In that ti#e. 8 en #ore da#ning "or Scott/s reputation. has ne er been one to duc0 a "ight.#an who at one point writes his expedition is a sha#bles. 3his is a stor! o" a#ateurs and pro"essionals. being considered the preser e o" the Ro!al %eographical Societ! and the na ! and there"ore a hi e o" #ediocrit!. -nd on da!s when Scott is tent7bound in a bli>>ard. -#undsen writes that the te#peratures are about what he expected and he is #a0ing good progress. Indeed. 1irst ca#e Ranulph 1iennes in '((?. but the subtext o" both was the sa#e: to nail the Scott #!th once and "or all.

re#ains a "ootnote in the national ps!che. *unt"ord had been ruthless in his research. while Scott still has an iconic status.cCabe "or the %uardian Det e en this 5iana #o#ent was co#parati el! short7li ed. he had to "ight o"" an injunction ta0en out b! Peter Carter7Ruc0 on behal" o" the Scott "a#il! "or libel b! i#plication. a"ter a run7in with a senior acade#ic at the SPRI. an inco#petent loser who battled nature rather than tried to understand it. It was the a"ter#ath o" the "irst world war that was largel! responsible "or Scott/s re i al. &! the ti#e *unt"ord began his research in the #id7)(s. <hen his original boo0 was published in 19)9. Scott is seen as rather second7rate . <hen Scott/s expedition diaries ca#e out towards the end o" 191?. 8lsewhere in the world. the Scott "a#il! and the Scott Polar Research Institute GSPRIH in Ca#bridge happil! opened up their archi es to hi#. and ha e a per erse attraction to ro#antic heroes who "ail rather than to *o#eric ones who succeed./ Photograph: 8a#onn . @Shac0leton. as i" the critics suspected the edited diaries were co ering up a truth altogether #ore unco#"ortabl! prosaic than the legend the! had been sold.@ sa!s *unt"ord. :nl! in &ritain do we re ere the #an who died in "ailure abo e the sur i or. So there was a real national desire "or a #odern hero.ost i#portant o" all was that Scott was dead+ had he co#e ho#e ali e. with its Faughan <illia#s soundtrac0 . *unt"ord/s ersion rapidl! beca#e widel! accepted. 3here is si#pl! no #ore e idence le"t to "ind.@ 3he Race "or the South Pole represents *unt"ord/s "inal atte#pt to get Scott and -#undsen/s legacies restored to what he belie es should be their proper balance. @3he war was the "irst "ought on an epic scale and it le"t the countr! with a acuu# o" heroes. the expedition #e#ber who had disco ered the bodies o" Scott. &! the ti#e the "irst world war started. con"ident that nothing critical would e er be written. @It/s strange. <ilson and &owers. his heroic status re#ained al#ost untouched "or #ore than 4( !ears. 3he Scott "a#il! were right to be concerned. Scott/s #e#or! had been hal" eclipsed+ b! the end it had been al#ost totall! so. http:!!www$guardian$co$u%!world!# 1 !sep!#&!captain-scott-antarctic-a'undsen-south-pole 3 ! "!# 13 . 3he generals were discredited and the "ootsoldiers largel! anon!#ous and "orgotten. -nd !et the Scott legend re"uses to die to this da!. who didn/t lose a #an. he would ha e been soon "orgotten. while Scott still has an iconic status. howe er. *unt"ord got an earl! indication o" what was in store. and with the release o" the 19E) "il# Scott o" the -ntarctic. re#ains a "ootnote in the national ps!che. the re iews were #ixed at best . put Scott bac0 on a national pedestal.Captain Scott: a second-rate hero? | World news | The Guardian Página 3 de 4 disaster.@ Roland *unt"ord: /Shac0leton. and though Scott did not go unde"ended. who didn/t lose a #an when the 8ndurance was crushed in the -ntarctic ice. who warned hi# o" the dangers o" da#aging Scott/s reputation.@ 3he publication in 19'' o" 3he <orst 6ourne! in the <orld b! -psle! Cherr!7%arrard. @3here were no <ellingtons or 2elsons "or the countr! to unite around. . <ill it be enough= Possibl! not.@ sa!s *unt"ord.

Perhaps we get the national heroes we deser e.a! '(1? %oodb!e.edia Ii#ited or its a""iliated co#panies. and #a!be that is as it should be.ueen o" -#erica '9 .a! '(1? <hat/s this= 3iger that 0illed >oo wor0er /dragged her into its More from around the web 3ornadoes *it 1our States in .MR:PSchoices. -"ter all.a! '(1? China/s second cities 7 the new 0ids on the bloc0 G*S&C %lobal ConnectionsH .uite a ride 'J . Sign up for the daily email More from the Guardian enclosure/ ') . The Race for the South Pole: The Expedition Diaries of Scott and Amundsen.co#$ Pri ate ban0s Swit>erland :pen an account at pri ate ban0s Swit>erland www.co# P '(1? %uardian 2ews and .exico= K1((0L In UC Pensions= 5ownload .shop or call #00# 000 '12' Sign up "or the %uardian 3oda! Our editors' picks for the day's top news and commentary delivered to your inbox each morning. http:!!www$guardian$co$u%!world!# 1 !sep!#&!captain-scott-antarctic-a'undsen-south-pole 3 ! "!# 13 .idwest Dor0 3i#esH <hat/s this= G3he 2ew 6enna I!ons: "ashion .co#$*. Sell N <in Collectible Sta#ps %reat "or Collectors N 5ealersO Sta#p<ants. decline and "all is a paradig# o" &ritish li"e o er #uch o" the last hundred !ears. is published by Continuum rrp !"#$% To order a copy for !&'%(( )ith free *+ p.assi e -rcheological 1ind Points 3o :rigins :" Ci ili>ation Gred:rbitH 3he ? %olden Rules o" In esting G-5F12H Sniper 1ire Cills S!rian 6ournalist in Iebanese &order -ttac0 G3he <rapH Ads by Google &ritish 8xpat In .a! '(1? Russia to deli er ar#s to S!ria as "ears rise o" prox! war 'J .p -o to -uardian%co%u.1ree %uide 3o MR:PS N 8xpert -d ice Dour.bidStart. -ll rights reser ed. by Roland Huntford. It/s been ./boo. 1ord.RCappro ed Sta#p Collectors 5ealers &u!.Captain Scott: a second-rate hero? | World news | The Guardian Página 4 de 4 Scott will alwa!s ha e his supporters .a! '(1? Ii"e jac0ets "ind spar0s "ears "or as!lu# see0ers ') .alpenrosewealth.