Friday, August 12, 2011

To What End?

Amundsen's Singular Focus on Being First

For Amundsen, significance came from being the first to do something. His drive for success was not entirely a matter of ego. To continue to explore he needed to raise money–lots of it–and challenges that were easy or already accomplished by someone else sold no books and garnered little financial support.

His Antarctic team consisted only of men with the skills and training that could help him to achieve his dream to be the first to stand at 90°S. He took no scientists, journalists, or others who might have had their own plans.

For Scott, the significance of this journey was a more complex issue. Being first at the South Pole mattered, but so did science. Because he wanted his expedition to be both a triumph of exploration and an expansion of knowledge, he invited scientists to join him, at significant expense to his program. The observations and collections they made during the course of the Terra Nova expedition formed the basis for an extensive body of scientific literature that is still consulted today.

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