100 Years Ago, Amundsen Reaches South Pole

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On the evening of Dec. 13, 1911, Robert Falcon Scott's journal entry revealed the despair he felt at what was becoming an increasingly fraught and seemingly interminable attempt to reach the South Pole. "A most damnably dismal day," it began, before cataloging the trials and ordeals he and his companions had endured over the previous 24 hours in their attempt to push south. "We were soaked with perspiration and thoroughly breathless with our efforts ... I suppose we have advanced a bare 4 miles today ... We can but toil on, but it is woefully disheartening."

A couple hundred miles to the south, the observations of Roald Amundsen were a study in contrast. "Lovely weather," he wrote on the 12th; "we have done our usual 17 nautical miles." The following day: "Our best day up here." By the evening of the 13th, Amundsen and his companions camped 15 miles from the Pole, and that night, he wrote later, "I was awake several times ... and had the same feeling that I can remember as a little boy on the night before Christmas."

The next morning, he continued, "I believe we despatched our breakfast rather more quickly than usual and were out of the tent sooner." They marched onward in silence, their dogs straining at their harnesses. The men feared to the last that Scott had beaten them and they peered keenly ahead for signs of the Englishman's presence, Amundsen observing that "Hanssen's neck grew twice as long as before in his endeavour to see a few inches farther."...

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