Blizzard: Race to the Pole - Netflix

Two teams of explorers recreate the 1911 race to the South Pole between Amundsen and Scott. Bruce Parry and his team finally make it to the Pole, but will they make it back?

Blizzard: Race to the Pole - Netflix

Type: Documentary

Languages: English

Status: Ended

Runtime: 50 minutes

Premier: 2007-03-04

Blizzard: Race to the Pole - Comparison of the Amundsen and Scott Expeditions - Netflix

Between December 1911 and January 1912, both Roald Amundsen (leading his South Pole expedition) and Robert Falcon Scott (leading the Terra Nova expedition) reached the South Pole within a month of each other. But while Scott and his four companions died on the return journey, Amundsen's party managed to reach the geographic south pole first and subsequently return to their base camp at Framheim without loss of life, suggesting that they were better prepared for the expedition. The contrasting fates of the two teams seeking the same prize at the same time invites comparison.

Blizzard: Race to the Pole - Ponies vs dogs - Netflix

Scott had used dogs on his first (Discovery) expedition and felt they had failed. On that journey, Scott, Shackleton, and Wilson started with three sledges and 13 dogs. But on that expedition, the men had not properly understood how to travel on snow with the use of dogs. The party had skis but were too inexperienced to make good use of them. As a result, the dogs travelled so fast that the men could not keep up with them. The Discovery expedition had to increase their loads to slow the dogs down. Additionally, the dogs were fed Norwegian dried fish, which did not agree with them and soon they began to deteriorate. The whole team of dogs eventually died (and were eaten), and the men took over hauling the sleds. Scott's opinion was reinforced by Shackleton's experience on his Nimrod expedition that got to within 97.5 nautical miles (180.6 km; 112.2 mi) of the pole. Shackleton used ponies. Scott planned to use ponies only to the base of the Beardmore Glacier (one-quarter of the total journey) and man-haul the rest of the journey. Scott's team had developed snow shoes for his ponies, and trials showed they could significantly increase daily progress. However, Lawrence Oates, whom Scott had made responsible for the ponies, was reluctant to use the snow shoes and Scott failed to insist on their use. There was plenty of evidence that dogs could succeed in the achievements of William Speirs Bruce in his Arctic, Antarctic, and Scottish National Antarctic Expedition, Amundsen in the Gjøa North West passage expedition, Fridtjof Nansen's crossing of Greenland, Robert Peary's three attempts at the North Pole, Eivind Astrup's work supporting Peary, Frederick Cook's discredited North Pole expedition, and Otto Sverdrup's explorations of Ellesmere Island. Moreover, Scott ignored the direct advice he received (while attending trials of the motor sledges in Norway) from Nansen, the most famous explorer of the day, who told Scott to take “dogs, dogs and more dogs”. At the time of the events, the expert view in England had been that dogs were of dubious value as a means of Antarctic transport. Broadly speaking, Scott saw two ways in which dogs may be used—they may be taken with the idea of bringing them all back safe and sound, or they may be treated as pawns in the game, from which the best value is to be got regardless of their lives. He stated that if, and only if, the comparison was made with a dog sledge journey which aimed to preserve the dogs' lives, 'I am inclined to state my belief that in the polar regions properly organised parties of men will perform as extended journeys as teams of dogs.' On the other hand, if the lives of the dogs were to be sacrificed, then 'the dog-team is invested with a capacity for work which is beyond the emulation of men. To appreciate this is a matter of simple arithmetic'. But efficiency notwithstanding, he expressed “reluctance” to use dogs in this way: “One cannot calmly contemplate the murder of animals which possess such intelligence and individuality, which have frequently such endearing qualities, and which very possibly one has learnt to regard as friends and companions.” Amundsen, by contrast, took an entirely utilitarian approach. Amundsen planned from the start to have weaker animals killed to feed the other animals and the men themselves. He expressed the opinion that it was less cruel to feed and work dogs correctly before shooting them, than it would be to starve and overwork them to the point of collapse. Amundsen and his team had similar affection for their dogs as those expressed above by the English, but they “also had agreed to shrink from nothing in order to achieve our goal”. The British thought such a procedure was distasteful, though they were willing to eat their ponies. Amundsen had used the opportunity of learning from the Inuit while on his Gjøa North West passage expedition of 1905. He recruited experienced dog drivers. To make the most of the dogs he paced them and deliberately kept daily mileages shorter than he need have for 75 percent of the journey, and his team spent up to 16 hours a day resting. His dogs could eat seals and penguins hunted in the Antarctic while Scott's pony fodder had to be brought all the way from England in their ship. It has been later shown that seal meat with the blubber attached is the ideal food for a sledge dog. Amundsen went with 52 dogs, and came back with 11. What Scott did not realise is a sledge dog, if it is to do the same work as a man, will require the same amount of food. Furthermore, when sledge dogs are given insufficient food they become difficult to handle. The advantage of the sledge dog is its greater mobility. Not only were the Norwegians accustomed to skiing, which enabled them to keep up with their dogs, but they also understood how to feed them and not overwork them.

Blizzard: Race to the Pole - References - Netflix