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March 29, 2007



Thoughtful and thought provoking post. And here are some of the thoughts you provoked:

I do believe that reviewing historical events with modern eyes, is 'a good thing', but it is also important to remember that the people living through that time did not have that privilege. In other words, we must always judge their actions in the light of the times they lived in.

Nationalism should now be considered an anachronism, (while I remain proud of my Scottish roots). Nowadays, I like to think, we would be striving to test ourselves in a harsh environment and not just to get there before someone of another nationality.

Thanks again.


There was a television series on, here,last year, in Britain called "Blizzard: Race to the Pole"
which was an interesting experiment.
"This documentary recreates the race to the South Pole in 1911 between Roald Amundsen and Robert Falcon Scott and questions whether the success and failure was due to luck or strategy. Scott has been labelled as both an unlucky gifted explorer and an arrogant incompetent.

The two teams are kitted out in 1911 gear, carrying the same supplies as their counterparts, and employing the same strategies. The main difference between the teams being Amundsen's choice to use more dogs and to use them for more of the journey. Scott had decided that dogs were unreliable over unpredictable terrain and decided to man-haul the sledges.

Because dogs are no longer allowed in Antarctic, the race was recreated in Greenland where there's similar terrain and weather.

The modern Scott Team is lead by Bruce Parry, who has gentle leadership style which belies his military background as a Marines commando troop commander. Bruce is the youngest officer to have ever been in charge of all physical training for the Royal Marines Commandos.

The physical change in the modern Scott team is drastic. They man-haul sledges burning almost twice the calories than the original Scott diet provides and we see them shed body weight at a dramatic rate as the team lose between 16% - 25% of their body mass before their race is called off by the producers."


Very thought provoking review. It does seem a hard line for historians to walk between the rush to castigate and the hand-waving to excuse those negative actions of the past. Either the context in which the actions occurred are entirely neglected or they are over plumbed for reasons to excuse any wrong-doing. It's good to hear that this particular book does a god job of finding a middle ground. I've always wanted to learn more about that doomed expedition. Now I know what book to read. :)

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  • “Compassion is not religious business, it is human business; it is not luxury, it is essential for our own peace and mental stability; it is essential for human survival.”

    -- The Dalai Lama

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