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Last Place on Earth: Scott and Amundsen: Their Race to the South Pole
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Last Place on Earth: Scott and Amundsen: Their Race to the South Pole

4.29 of 5 stars 4.29  ·  rating details  ·  1,499 ratings  ·  93 reviews
This acclaimed dual biography charts both British Robert Scott's and Norwegian Roald Amundsen's race to the South Pole during 1911–12. Bizarrely, Scott died in his quest and became a tragic hero, whereas Amundsen, the victor, was largely forgotten. Reassessing the two explorers and their methods of exploration, the book examines the driving ambitions of the era, recounts t ...more
Audio CD, Abridged, 1 page
Published July 21st 2009 by CSA Word (first published 1979)
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Lisa (Harmonybites)
Sep 26, 2012 Lisa (Harmonybites) rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone Interested in Antarctica, Leadership, Exploration
This book is many things: the story of the race to the South Pole, a dual biography of the rivals, Englishman Captain Robert F. Scott and Norwegian Roald Amundsen, adventure and exploration of the Antarctic, and above all a tale of leadership--superb and inept.

The book, which the New York Times book review called "one of the great debunking biographies" was greeted with outrage in Britain, where Scott had achieved mythic status. Scott, who Huntford called "muddle-headed" and a "bungler" embodie
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Kevin Hanks
What an incredible book. I was blown away with how much I liked it. It was incredibly well-researched and well presented historical drama. The author had very obviously done his homework and knew the topic well. It was a long read for me, and took quite a while to get through. It's not a fast-paced thriller novel, so there were parts when I would sit down to read it and fall asleep after only a few pages (though that may just mean I'm usually a busy and tired guy). The first 3/4 of the book was ...more
Wayne
Reading this book ignited my interest in Antarctica and literally changed my life. I took up mountaineering, winter camping, and cross country skiing because of this book.
On Dec. 24, 2004 I stood at the South Pole after a ski journey of 73 miles (a bit more than the Last Degree of latitude).
Chris
When people ask me about my all-time favourite book it takes about a second and a half for me to reply The Last Place on Earth by Roland Huntford. At one time I would then launch with no further prompting and usually to the distress of my listener on a reverent summary of Huntford’s masterful retelling of the classic tale of Scott and Amundsen’s 1911/1912 race to the South Pole. And in the 20 years since discovering this literary gift I still give the book as my all-time favourite but, fortunate ...more
Zach
First off - don't read this book if you really, really like Captain Robert Scott. You probably shouldn't even read it if you even have ever had a slight admiration for him.

Huntford, the author, rips Scott a new one approximately 4,000 times throughout the almost 550 page book. I don't think I need spoilers in this review, as everyone already knows that Amundson the Norwegian won and Scott the Brit lost, so I'll just say it here - I was shocked to hear that technically speaking, poor Scott never
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Tim
Roland Huntford's take on the race to the South Pole is fascinating, often riveting. But his relentless bashing of Robert Falcon Scott gets a bit tiresome. I'm far from an expert; it seems much of the criticism of Scott is deserved if one looks strictly at what was the most efficient and safest way to the pole. Roald Amundsen is so prepared and efficient that it almost takes the fun out of his first-to-the-pole feat. Scott, who of course died on his way back after losing the race to the pole, in ...more
Eric_W
I've always been struck by the fact that the British revere Scott, a miserable failure, in my estimation. He was smug, didn't do his homework, and wasted resources on a doomed effort. Amundsen, on the other hand, studied the Eskimos to learn how to survive in harsh arctic conditions, learned how to use dogs, including eating them as they went along, and he breezed to the South Pole and back almost as easily as a walk in the park. Scott insisted on taking mules, which required that he haul hay al ...more
Jesse
What I learned: Don't attempt to be the first person to reach the South Pole if you don't really know anything about polar exploration. Also, stories about explorers in Antarctica are less depressing than stories of explorers elsewhere, because nobody lives in Antarctica, so there's no colonialism or genocide involved.

Foolery aside, this is a fascinating book.
Myka
Jun 25, 2008 Myka rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone!
Huntford wrote the definitive book on the famous Race to the South Pole between Englishman Robert F. Scott and Norwegian Roald Amundsen. Not to give it away, but-- Amundsen won!

Huntford crafted more than an historical account of the two expeditions. The Last Place on Earth intertwines the biographies of two very different men and examines their competing world views using the race as a lens. To research the book, he combed through all manner of records from military reports and bank statements t
...more
Rodrigo
This is an amazing book. It is thrilling and at the same time very interesting from the historical point of view. The only thing that may be considered a weakness is the bias that the book carries so strongly. Scott is depicted as such a feeble character in so many words that it is sometimes hard to imagine that so many people believed in his competence for so long. But it is a good, interesting and entertaining book, very well writen and highly recommended.
Ken R
Huntford does a masterful job of researching and finding diaries and correspondence from numerous sources. In "The Last Place on Earth", Huntford profiles two fascinating polar explorers, Norway's Roald Amundsen and England's Robert Scott.

Huntford provides a complete biography on both men. Huntford looks at the life, education, careers, and relationships of Amundsen and Scott. Huntford contrasts Amundsen's careful planning and adoption of Eskimo techniques to Scott's reckless and ultimately fata
...more
Henri Quin
I did not read this book from cover to cover. I took it up rather as a background text to be studied, for more detail , while excitedly reading GREAT BY CHOICE , by Jim Collins. I believe there is a link in the psychology of companies who survive, and survivors who get themselves out of bad situations. There is an element of luck involved, but that is also related to mind-set . So I read bits and pieces of this book with great interest, and if I was not permanently overloaded, thankfully, with l ...more
Maria
This is was not an easy read with over 560 pages. But it is incredible writing! I admire the author Roland Huntford for his countless hours of research into the lives of the two men (Robert Falcon Scott and Roald Admundsen) who were separately in a quest to first arrive at the South Pole. He went to the original sources. I first heard about this book from reading a business book called Great By Choice by Jim Collins. Jim Collins said The Last Place on Earth is a great leadership book. So I read ...more
Malcolmcameron
A very interesting readable book and great to compare the two approaches but it is scathing of Scott to the point of nastiness. There have been several biographies of Scott and none are this severe. Ranulph Fiennes's effort Captain Scott is effectively a rebuttal of Huntford and is dedicated "to the maligned dead". Scott was lionised in death during a period that had very different values than today. Inevitably the reality of Scott was more mundane than the hyperbole of a nation looking for hero ...more
Andrew
This book provides a very in depth analysis of the journey to the pole made by both Roald Amundsen and Robert Scott.

The book highlights the errors in judgement and poor leadership displayed by Scott and contrasts this with the excellent standards maintained by Amundsen.

The book could be accused of displaying heavy bias in favour of Amundsen but it is self evident that Scott made little or no effort to thoroughly research what he was going into, ignored advice given by other more experienced pola
...more
Penny
I read this story of Antarctic exploration in the middle of summer, and I felt freezing while reading it. The book tells the story of Amundsen and Scott's race for the South Pole in 1911/12. Huntford contrasts the preparation and attitude of the two men and then gives a detailed account of each expedition. Amundsen went with dogs and skis: he reached the South Pole first and returned victorious. Scott and his team, meanwhile, died on their way back from the Pole. Scott's diary was later publishe ...more
Vikram
The last place on Earth, of course, refers to the South Pole. This book chronicles the "race" between Scott and Amundsen to be the first man to reach the South Pole while at the same time providing insight into the two main characters. We learn that Amundsen was methodical and "cold" in the way he planned his expedition while Scott was a bit....cavalier, shall we say.We also learn that dogs made the difference, Amundsen choosing to use sled dogs to haul cargo while Scott did not. The book also e ...more
Eva Nickelson
This was a combined biography of Roald Amundsen and Robert Scott. It highlighted both of their journeys to the South Pole. Huntford spent a large amount of time looking at the differences of the two men, in particular Amundsen's qualifications and Scott's lack of qualifications. The biographies were well cited, using both the diaries of the men themselves and the diaries of those in their parties, and that alone made a compelling story of what each man was thinking before and during the voyages. ...more
Mark Peterson
This book is a history of Amundsen and Scott's trips to the South Pole. They led expiditions to reach the South Pole. It is sort of a biography of both men. The author does a really good job of using the journals and letters of those involved to paint a vivid picture of what it took to be able to make the journey. Despite knowing who won the race, it was still gripping as the story unfolded.

The author clearly thinks highly of Amundsen and Scott is shown to be inept fool and after reading this hi
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Justarius
This book was the most remarkable book I have read in a long time. On one level, it is a riveting adventure tale of polar exploration. On another, it is a study in contrast of two very different leadership styles. Amundsen was reserved, meticulous, and humble. Scott was romantic, boastful, and irresponsible. Their expeditions met starkly different ends due in large part to their differing styles.

When this book first came out in the 1970s, it changed public opinion of Scott virtually overnight.
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Michael Kallan
Fantastic, very detailed double biography of Roald Amundsen and Robert Falcon Scott, with the primary focus on their respective (competing) expeditions to the South Pole. Huntford's does a wonderful job of pulling material from various sources to create a smooth-flowing narrative that does the Antarctic justice.
My one complaint about the book was the almost complete negative portrayal of Scott. While I understand much of this was pushback against the often unquestioning hero worship of him and
...more
Clinton
I've taken a keen interest in books about polar exploration. These books are about real men. And what's most amazing is that many of these explorations took place not too long ago! There are people alive today who remember Amundsen and Scott reaching the South Pole.

The author shows a distinct bias against Scott, portraying him as reckless and authoritarian, in stark contrast to Amundsen's well-prepared and well-thought-out voyage. This is a fairly different approach for an English-language autho
...more
Kim
Thrilling description of the race and two racers to the South Pole. The story is longish, but reads in a lively and engaging way.

The worst part of the book is the author's favor of Amundsen and dis-favor of Scott. He considers the former a man of virtue and the ideal explorer who does almost everything right, while Scott's personality and professionalism are discredited in every chapter of the book. This surely can not be the objective description of how things were. Putting this favoritism asi
...more
David
Really opens one’s mind to the truth about the attainment of the South Pole. Shows that what we get taught in school is often not the complete story.

Amundesen was constantly learning, improving his equipment & planning to the last detail. Scott was not able to learn from experience or mistakes & stubbornly ignoring advice that could have saved his life.

Leadership was one of Amundesen's greatest strength’s, his men knowing they could trust him implicitly and that he would listen to them.
...more
Ilinca
Not having read the story when I was 12, I found it completely engrossing now. I'll have to read another account as well, just to make sure that Huntford is not unduly harsh on Scott. But if his account is even remotely true, then he - umm, spoiler alert - was a selfish, self-indulgent s.o.b. with half a brain, who pretty much effed up a serious expedition killed his companions through his moronic inability to prepare, learn his lessons, take advice and generally display intelligence at every st ...more
Lara
The audiobook version I have appears to abridged; I'll have to pick up the actual book at some point and find out what I missed. Anyway, what Huntford's done here is to compare Scott's and Amundsen's expeditions to the South Pole, alternating back and forth between the two parties, beginning with their backgrounds. It's easy to see who's the villain in Huntford's view. Scott comes across here as nothing more than a stubborn, arrogant, stupid bumbler who got what he deserved. I find it rather amu ...more
Hvertti
This book should be an obligatory reading for anyone involved with Project Management. It is a perfect example of how two very different leaders approached the same challenge.

Almost every business and management buzzword will come to mind at one time or another while reading this book: self-directed team, innovation, communication, micromanagement, et cetera. Anyone who has ever worked in a development project will find himself in familiar territory and will march along both expeditions, thinki
...more
Nathalie
The PBS series based on this book made a big impression on 80s me. The book is far more uneven in its treatment of Scott's life, but what an achievement - Amundsen was tha man. So many leadership lessons there! Why 1910er men were so obsessed with the poles...who's really knows, but I sure as hell love reading about this insanity. On to his Shackleton biography...
Danielle
This is a really interesting story. I first heard about it somewhere that actually recommended it as a good book on project management. It is a very interesting example in that regard and also a good example of different leadership styles. As mentioned in many other reviews Huntford is very hard on Scott, I like to assume Scott was not quite as bad as all he's made out to be. Also, I would note that this is actually a dual-biography of Scott and Amundsen, so it begins with their early lives and ...more
Eric Hoff
Really great book, I loved it. Huntford does a great job of analyzing the respective cultures and how Amundsen and Scott symbolized them. While I appreciate Hunford's frankness of Scott's ineptitude, I wondered at times if he was being too harsh. Not that Scott wasn't a fool, but his strengths are glossed over so quickly that the reader barely notices them. For example, Scott must have been amazingly strong with matching endurance, but this is only referred to in passing.
These shortcoming's are
...more
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