Thursday, January 12, 2012

BOOKS: The Last Place on Earth - a historical study in character

Need an amazing nature adventure? A character-driven drama?  Roland Huntford's mesmerizing "The Last Place on Earth." is for you. I know the genre on the back cover says history. Nonetheless  it kept me up late into the night several times. It's not a cliff hanger. But it is a fascinating dissection.

 In 1910-11 Roald Amundsen, a Norwegian,  and Robert Scott, a Brit, each led an extended expedition across Antarctica hoping to be the first to reach the South Pole and return. This book is a gripping, meticulously-researched  narrative that contrasts the two men, their characters, methods, values, preparation and leadership styles, and finally their relation to their country's differing cultures.

Amundsen got to the pole weeks ahead of Scott and lost not a man. Scott's poor planing and failure to learn. listen and prepare cost five lives including his own.  Instead of an investigation into how such a lackadaisical administrator, poor planner, vain publicity hound could have been entrusted with so many lives as they entered a dangerous environment - he was venerated as a national hero whose victory was "stolen" by Amundsen.  Talk about spin. Read this book. You might never again trust what you think is a cultural given. You might never trust a "hero" again.

This past December marked 100 years since Amundsen arrived at the South Pole.

There is apparently a whole six hour  epic mini-series  based on this book. It takes up 3 DVDs and has Martin Shaw as Scott and Sverre Anker Ousdal as Amundsen. Might have to see that now....