Cautionary Tales – South Pole Race: “Mummy, is Amundsen a good man?”

29th July, 2022

Roald Amundsen beat Captain Scott to the South Pole. The Norwegian – using dog sleds and skis – made it look easy… fun, even. He was heading home to safety, while the British party – hauling sleds by hand – struggled out on the ice. 

In this case, to the victor went a spoiled reputation. The British grumbled that Amundsen had somehow cheated, or had at least behaved in an underhand manner. These stinging accusations would haunt the adventurer until the day he died in the polar wastes.

Cautionary Tales is written by me, Tim Harford, with Andrew Wright. It is produced by Ryan Dilley, with support from Courtney Guarino and Emily Vaughn.

The sound design and original music is the work of Pascal Wyse. Julia Barton edited the scripts.

Thanks to the team at Pushkin Industries, including Mia Lobel, Jacob Weisberg, Heather Fain, Jon Schnaars, Carly Migliori, Eric Sandler, Emily Rostek, Royston Beserve, Maggie Taylor, Nicole Morano, Daniella Lakhan and Maya Koenig.

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Further reading and listening

Stephen Bown The Last Viking

David Crane Scott of the Antarctic

Apsley Cherry-Garrard The Worst Journey in the World

Malcolm Gladwell David and Goliath

Ranulph Fiennes Captain Scott

Roland Huntford The Last Place on Earth

Edward Larson An Empire of Ice

Diana Preston A First Rate Tragedy

Robert Scott The Voyage of the Discovery

“Captain Roald Amundsen and the Society” The Geographical Journal Dec 1927

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