Drunk History: The South Pole

This season is the 100th anniversary of the first successful traverse, and a not-so-successful second traverse, to the South Pole.   Roald Amundsen and his Norwegian team tagged the Pole on 14 December, and an English team led by Robert Scott arrived five weeks later, only to perish during the return trip.

At McMurdo Station, a film crew directed by Julie Katch and edited by Allison "Sandwich" Barden created "Drunk History: The South Pole."  Inspired by the comic Drunk History series by Derek Waters, its a humorous retelling of the story.  Warning: there is a few f-bombs, s-words, and the taking of a deity's name in vain.

The epic story still sounds like a modern debate between light-and-fast alpinists and siege-style mountaineers.  Or an example of how one team practiced Keep-It-Simple-Stupid and Proper-Planning-Prevents-Piss-Poor-Performance, while the other team suffered at every turn from Murphy's Law:  Whatever Can Go Wrong, Will Go Wrong.  The New York Times published an article about the events on 13 December 2011 - LINK.

Roald Amundsen raced to the pole using sled dogs, skis, and minimal equipment.  A gifted carpenter on the team trimmed the sleds from 100lbs to 45lbs each.  His team tagged the point on December 14th and raced back to the coast.  Remarkably little went wrong or caught his team by surprise.  They used more frequent caches then the English, letting them have a lighter daily weight to carry. They eliminated (killed) one or two dogs from each sled team as food supplies lightened after the final return cache's were laid.  The use of dogs - and some of their demise - was a focal point of criticism used afterwards by the English press.

On the slow and heavy plan, 34 days later on January 17th Robert Scott's team discovered the Norwegian flag and a tent left to mark Amundsen's success.  Since the snow mobiles and ponies proved inadequate for the task, they were dragging their equipment by hand, a technique Scott called "man-hauling", and along with their meager food supplies carried science equipment to measure snow density, take accurate weather observations, and collecting rock samples. Tragically, the English team was pinned down by a late summer storm during the return journey.  Exhausted and suffering from malnutrition, they ran out of supplies before the storm let up enough to let them reach a nearby supply cache left for the return leg.  They died of exposure and exhaustion soon after Scott's last journal entry on 29 March.

The Norwegians celebrated the centennial - a team ski traversed from the Ronne Ice Shelf to the South Pole, arriving at 11:30pm on the 14th, meeting the Norwegian Prime Minister and other government officials (the United States Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station operates on New Zealand's timezone).  The British Antarctic Survey, the Australian Antarctic Division, and Antarctica New Zealand remembered the heroic effort of Scott's team at their stations.  In the Thomas Hills, we had a toast to both explorers on their respective Days at the South Pole.