On This Date in History: Robert Falcon Scott was a British Explorer who was bound and determined to be the first person to reach the South Pole. He set off in 1901 for Antarctica in the Discovery. It was an appropriately named ship for Scott and his team wandered about for 3 years and made a survey of Victoria Land on the frozen continent’s Ross Sea and discovered the Edward VII peninsula. Even though Victoria or Edward VII weren’t with them, I suppose it was deemed as good protocal to name discoveries for royalty. This was just an exploratory mission to set up the ultimate move to the South Pole because they only made a few brief forays onto the continent itself before ending the 3 year journey. He returned and wrote a book about the Discovery Expedition.
Now, there were other explorers who had their hearts set on reaching the South Pole first. One was Norwegian Roald Amundsen. Competition between explorers of the final global frontiers was fierce and an undeclared war between the two men began in 1911. Both knew of the other’s ambition and both suspected that history remembers the winners and not who comes in second.
In this case, both 1st and second gained everlasting fame. In honor of the pair, the weather station at the South Pole is named the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, where you can get current weather conditions. But, only one man won the race. Both men set sail for Anarctica but, Amundsen went to the Bay of Whales and set up a base camp 60 miles closer to the South Pole than Scott. That was the first of his many good fortunes. Both expeditions took off from their base camps in October 1912. Amundsen had sleigh dogs while Scott took motor sledges and Siberian ponies as well as dog teams. Apparently, Scott had the mindset of the time.
Remember, the Titanic was nearing her maiden voyage and many had thought that technology was the answer to all nature had to offer. Scott largely disregarded the proven use of dog teams in harsh conditions. Scott wrote, “In my mind no journey ever made with dogs can approach the height of that fine conception which is realised when a party of men go forth to face hardships, dangers, and difficulties with their own unaided efforts, and by days and weeks of hard physical labour succeed insolving some problem of the great unknown. Surely in this case the conquest is more nobly and splendidly won.” It was definitely a race for the dogs because, not only was Amundsen’s route favored by geographic location, but also by the Antarctic weather. It was summer time in Antarctica but the weather can still be brutal but Amundsen’s meteorological conditions were actually not too bad by Antarctic standards. The Norwegians reached the South Pole on December 14, 1911 and favorable weather conditions allowed them to return to their base by January 1912.
Scott was on the move all that time and had no idea of his rivals movement. So, he pushed on thinking that he still had a shot to reaching the bottom of the world first. Perhaps Scott depended too heavily on technology because the motorized sleds broke down. Then the ponies had to be shot and he decided it was best to send the dog teams back, leaving he and four companions to press forward on foot. Robert Falcon Scott must have been pretty upset on January 18, 1912 when, after over 100 days of great travail, he reached the South Pole and found that Amundsen had already been there. What a bummer. But, his coming in second place was the least of his worries. See, the weather wasn’t too kind and these guys had to find their way back on foot. Two of the men died along the way, but Scott and the other two continued on. They made it to about 11 miles from the basecamp when the weather was so bad that they had to wait it out in their tent. They waited forever.
When the frozen bodies of the three men were found on November 12, 1912, a final entry was found in Scott’s diary dated March 29, 1912, about a month before the Titanic sunk. The men were found inside the tent Scott wedged between his two partners, Lt. Henry Bowers and Dr. Edward Wilson. They were in their sleeping bags covered them as if they were asleep but, curiously, the flaps of Scotts bag was thrown open. Maybe he got too hot. Amundsen though also tempted fate and technology. In 1928, the great Norwegian explorer was claimed by the top of the world when the plane in which he was flying on a rescue mission plunged into the icy Arctic Ocean. Now, explorers using a submarine are searching for Amundsen’s plane in the icy depths of his grave.
Weather Bottom Line: I will be an usher at the service for Francene Cucinello, who passed away last week. Sunday’s rain should be gone and that should be the only good thing for the day. She was very well liked professionally and more importantly, personally. She will be missed. Francene was too young to be taken from this world but she touched the lives of many while she was here. The rest of the week’s weather will feature rain as a front gets hung up. Probably not consistent rain, but shower activity from time to time with cool, but slightly warmer than average tempertures.