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The Antarctic Race: An Analysis Of Amundsen And Scott’s Use Of Technology In Their Expeditions To The South Pole.

2588 words - 10 pages

Roald Amundsen was the first man to reach both poles – a very significant achievement considering the technology and knowledge available at the time. There are many aspects that both parties had to consider in preparing for the journey – an analysis of the weather conditions, land, soil type, flora and faunae, and route to be taken, as well as the logistics involved in packing necessary clothing, food, scientific and navigational equipment, and what to pack this on to – since the type of transportation utilized is a very crucial decision in exploration. Through an examination of his two expeditions to the south and north poles – in comparison to the unsuccessful attempt by Scott – we can identify the reasons behind Amundsen’s success, namely his ability to utilize the technologies most capably suited to his task. Although both explorers utilized technology to a high degree, it was Amundsen that, through his understanding of the climate and conditions, made the right choices in his selection of tools and techniques for the trip. It is specifically decisions made in three key categories that allowed for the successful attempt: the transportation technology (and its effectiveness in arctic climates), the technologies employed to sustain life (including nourishment, shelter and clothing), and lastly, the technologies of navigation that made it possible to reach the pole itself.
Through Scott’s documentation of the voyage and preparations, it is known that he went to great lengths to construct and procure a myriad of technologies and enhancements for the expedition (Langner, 2). His primary focus, was the ship itself: it was constructed with both sail and steam power in order to better navigate the narrow, treacherous stretches of water that were littered with icebergs and broken ice. The incorporation of the steam engine in the body of the ship significantly contributed to the bulk and weight of the hull, and consequently, the necessity for a large quantity of coal arose as well. These factors contributed to the ship’s weight, and also to its maneuverability (Langner, 3). Scott may have been aware of these considerations – possibly he was confident in the relative calmness of the sea between his starting point, Melbourne, Australia (Huxley, 1:30) and Antarctica. However, on the journey to the arctic, unfortunate weather conditions precipitated a storm. The water entered the ship, creating further weight, and allowing more water to enter. Pumps were practically of no use, and the crew could only lie in wait below-decks for the abating of the storm – the result of which was three snowmobiles lost off the side of the ship and ten tons of coal ruined by water (Langner, 6).
The loss of coal would later force them to conserve their remaining supply and at times, put out the boiler to save fuel (Ibid). This however, became problematic on their treacherous progress through the icebergs and pack ice, starting at the 65th latitude. The overall effect of...

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