Cover image for Race to the pole : tragedy, heroism, and Scott's Antarctic quest
Race to the pole : tragedy, heroism, and Scott's Antarctic quest
Fiennes, Ranulph, Sir, 1944-
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Hyperion, [2004]

Physical Description:
xiv, 462 pages; 25 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
G875.S35 F54 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



The real story of Captain Robert Scott's legendary Antarctic quest, told by the man whom the Guinness Book of World Records has proclaimed "the world's greatest living explorer," Sir Ranulph Fiennes.

During the Golden Era of Exploration, Captain Robert Scott and his competitor Roald Amundsen conquered the unconquerable: Antarctica. This perilous race to the South Pole claimed the life of Scott and became the stuff of legend, as well as endless scrutiny. In this compelling, meticulously researched biography of Captain Scott and his fatal journey, renowned modern-day explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes, holder of 10 expeditionary records, has written what is sure to become the definitive book on this hotly debated subject.

Race to the Pole provides a level of immediacy and accuracy that no other account has ever approached. Fiennes gained the exclusive cooperation of the Scott estate, as well as access to the descendants of key players, including those of Amundsen. As an explorer who has led over 30 expeditions, including the first polar circumnavigation of the earth and the first unsupported crossing of the Antarctic continent, he has firsthand knowledge of the grueling feat that Scott and his team undertook, as well as the physical tortures they endured.

Infused with the intensity of fiction and exhibiting an exhaustive eye for detail found in the greatest historical biographies, Race to the Pole is a prodigious achievement and certain to become a classic in the literature of exploration.

Author Notes

Sir Ranulph Fiennes was the first man to reach both Poles on land, and he is the only person to have been awarded two clasps to the Polar Medal for both Antarctic and Arctic regions. In 1993, Fiennes was awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for "human endeavor and charitable services." He is the author of many books

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

Robert Scott, a British naval captain, entered into legend when the Antarctic exploration party he headed in the polar summer of 1911-12 failed to return home. Fiennes, an accomplished explorer and travel writer, evokes a ringing you-are-there tone in his authoritative reconstruction of that fateful trip in a book that also serves as a comprehensive biography of Scott himself. Scrupulously researched (with the cooperation of the Scott estate) and astonishingly felt--given Fiennes' extensive travel exploration experience, including polar trips--this account follows a fascinating and difficult man, born delicate, weak chested, moody, quick tempered, and inclined to laziness, who tested himself all the way to his last act: freezing and starving to death on the unsuccessful return leg of his exploratory push to the pole. Fiennes' treatment defines creative nonfiction; of the many books, several of them recent, on Scott's expedition, this one will prove a popular addition to active travel-literature collections. --Brad Hooper Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

"We are weak, writing is difficult, but... I do not regret this journey," quotes Fiennes from one of the last letters of Capt. Robert Scott, who reached the South Pole in the summer of 1912 and then perished on the return trip. For generations of Englishmen, Scott was a hero. In the late 1970s, however, a bestselling biography called Scott's exploits into question and his reputation suffered. In this finely honed and riveting account of adventure, death and betrayal, Fiennes, who was the first man to reach both poles by land, seeks to reclaim Scott's place in the pantheon of great and honorable explorers. Fiennes details the tortuous conditions and grim reality of Antarctic exploration at the turn of the last century. Throughout the ordeal, Scott showed leadership, compassion and an unquenchable will to live. Alas, these attributes proved insufficient in the face of a blinding blizzard; he starved and froze to death on his journey home. In a gentle and urbane tone, Fiennes frequently cites his own extraordinary experiences to give perspective to Scott's story. In Fiennes's estimation, Scott succeeded where others failed: he respected his men, was the pride of an empire and made a legitimate and lasting contribution to scientific understanding. four 8-page b&w photo inserts, maps. Agent, Ed Victor. (Nov. 3) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Fiennes, the first man to reach both Poles on land and the only person awarded two clasps to the Polar Medal for both Arctic and Antarctic exploration, provides a gripping, must-read story of Capt. Robert Falcon Scott's legendary Antarctic expeditions. In his determined research, Fiennes gained the exclusive cooperation of the Scott estate, as well as access to the descendants of key players. Fiennes briefly summarizes Scott's family background before detailing his 1901-03 attempt to reach the South Pole and then presenting a thrilling, masterly explanation of his successful 1910-12 bid (though Scott perished on the return journey). This exhaustive analysis conveys the edge-of-life reality of late 19th- and early 20th-century Antarctic expeditions and discredits Roland Huntford's anti-Scott title, Scott and Amundsen. Fiennes has led over 30 expeditions himself, and his firsthand knowledge of the grueling realities Scott faced sets his work apart from the swelling literature on the explorer. Highly recommended for all academic and larger public libraries. Dale Farris, Groves, Texas (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

"Had we lived, I should have had a tale to tell of hardihood, endurance, and courage of my companions," wrote the doomed British polar explorer Captain Robert Scott of his 1911-2 expedition to the South Pole. He and two companions perished in a raging blizzard during their return, discouraged that their Norwegian competitor Roald Amundsen had conquered the pole a month before them. For decades, Captain Scott was a legendary hero, but Roland Huntford's book Scott and Amundsen (CH, Nov'80) crushed his reputation, causing many to question Scott's decisions on the ice. Now Fiennes, an experienced polar explorer, draws from extensive research including family papers and his own polar knowledge to restore Scott's status. Fiennes outlines Scott's background and then carefully details his 1911 expedition from the planning stages to the substantial media coverage following its demise. Photographs, maps, and extensive footnotes are included; a glossary also would have been helpful. Fiennes is successful on two levels: he reestablishes Scott's reputation by discrediting Huntford with convincing arguments, and he brings Scott's tragic story to life by recollecting his own harrowing battles with the polar "icy version of hell." This is an irresistible read. ^BSumming Up: Highly recommended. All public and academic levels/libraries. S. R. Moore University of Louisiana at Lafayette

Table of Contents

Introductionp. XIII
1 Markham's Grand Designp. 1
2 Torpedo Lieutenant Scottp. 12
3 Order Out of Chaosp. 23
4 Through the Pack Ice: 1901-1902p. 37
5 Nudging the Great Barrier: 1902p. 46
6 Dogs, Skis, and Menp. 56
7 The First Winterp. 67
8 The Southern Journey: 1902-1903p. 80
9 Lost on the Plateau: 1903-1904p. 100
10 A Promise Brokenp. 122
11 The Race Begins: 1910p. 150
12 Near Disaster: 1911p. 176
13 The Worst Journey: 1911p. 207
14 The Dangerous Glacierp. 239
15 The Black Flagp. 268
16 Intimations of Tragedyp. 289
17 The Greatest March Ever Madep. 307
18 The Legacyp. 341
19 The Last Wordp. 366
Appendix I Members of the Discovery Expedition, 1901-1904p. 393
Appendix II Members of the Terra Nova Expedition, 1910-1913p. 397
Acknowledgmentsp. 401
Picture Acknowledgmentsp. 405
Bibliographyp. 407
Notes on the Sourcesp. 413
Indexp. 447