Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Last Place on Earth: Scott and Amundsen's Race to the South Pole (Exploration)” as Want to Read:
The Last Place on Earth: Scott and Amundsen's Race to the South Pole (Exploration)
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Last Place on Earth: Scott and Amundsen's Race to the South Pole (Exploration)

4.32  ·  Rating details ·  2,866 ratings  ·  207 reviews
At the beginning of the twentieth century, the South Pole was the most coveted prize in the fiercely nationalistic modern age of exploration. In the brilliant dual biography, the award-winning writer Roland Huntford re-examines every detail of the great race to the South Pole between Britain's Robert Scott and Norway's Roald Amundsen. Scott, who dies along with four of his ...more
Paperback, 588 pages
Published September 7th 1999 by Modern Library (first published 1979)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Last Place on Earth, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Last Place on Earth

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.32  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,866 ratings  ·  207 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Last Place on Earth: Scott and Amundsen's Race to the South Pole (Exploration)
Apr 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: polar
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).
howl of minerva
Dec 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
In the spirit of Manny I think it's important to immediately point out some parallels with Knausgard. Is there anything more heroically pointless and more boring than polar exploration? I don't mean for science but just rushing to the pole to say you've stood there. For Norwegians to get the world's attention, they have to do something huge and monstrous. Something spectacular that others have only dreamed of or dismissed as ludicrous. One can see Knausgard (that face! the intensity! those crags ...more
Kevin Hanks
Feb 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Sep 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 31, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 10, 2008 rated it really liked it
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.
Dec 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, growth
(Short note: Forget about Jules Verne's, Charles Dickens's, Mark Twain's or whatever other adventure stories you might have read growing up. This is the ultimate adventure book and it's stunning because IT ALL HAPPENED!!)

As I was browsing through a random book at Fram Museum in Oslo a few months ago, my eyes rested on a small passage of Amundsen's letter that he left at the South Pole: he was wishing all the best to the British explorer Scott, who was expected to reach the Pole later, and tellin
Shreyas Garg
Mar 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
Not exactly "Scott and Amundsen" as much as "Amundsen, with a dash of Scott". The focus of this book is primarily Roald Amundsen, and with good reason. The story of Amundsen is a fascinating story of human intelligence and learning, more than grit and passion as Scott would make it seem. The book is stunningly researched with a wealth of first accounts put together in a coherent narrative that flows from adventure to adventure. It is hard to grasp the number of sources Huntford has referred to w ...more
Kathy Thelen
Jun 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
Really great as a study in contrasting leadership styles (or, rather, how to and not to lead, since Huntford was pretty obvious that one -- Amundsen -- was good and one --Scott--was disastrously bad). Kind of hard to follow the actual paths of these guys (though admittedly, i was mostly listening to this while running so I had no map handy). But it's just a great story of these two guys, and the stark contrasts between them, esp in how they prepared and organized their respective journeys, how t ...more
Jun 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 17, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Feb 05, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 21, 2018 rated it liked it
It was obvious from Scott's own diaries that he was a bit petty and overly dramatic, and that his expedition to the South Pole was somewhat poorly organised, but this (very entertaining) book makes it sound even worse, something akin to a Laurel and Hardy movie in terms of incompetence. More than anything though, it's clear that the author really, really hates R.F. Scott. Roland Huntford hates Scott with the fire of a thousand suns. Roland Huntford hates Scott so much, it's as if Scott had taken ...more
Nov 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
It was still the age of discovery, the start of the twentieth century. The North Pole had just been conquered. No one had yet been to the South Pole. Norway was still a backward country ruled by Sweden, badly in need of a national hero. Roald Amundsen was born to be an explorer. Once he had decided to conquer the South Pole, he let nothing stand in his way. A natural leader, he painstakingly provided his men with all they needed for survival in a hostile, frozen continent. British Commander Scot ...more
Jan 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: on-the-shelf
Inspiring and detailed story of how to properly plan, prepare and execute something ambitious that hasn't been done before.
Huntford has two parallel paths going: to success, and to failure. And two characters that could not be more different with more different endings to their lives. One of my favourite paragraphs at the end of the book summarises the fundamentals: 'Scott wanted to be a hero; Amundsen merely wanted to get to the Pole. Scott, with his instinct for self-dramatization, was playin
Mike Barnett
May 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A bit pedantic and repetitive at times as the author never misses even one sentence to remind you how much of a buffoon Scott was and how great Amundsen was. But still an amazing book to read and a really interesting idea about what we take for heroism and what we don't. ...more
How (not) to win friends and influence people
Dec 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
I love me a good arctic adventure story and this was certainly that.
Jun 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
A well-told tale of the two polar explorers, their two different national cultures, their different strengths and weaknesses as men and as leaders and how the complex interplay between it all had a profound influence not only on them in their time, but also on how we remember them.
Jack Heath
Mar 14, 2019 marked it as to-read
Synopsis: in the early twentieth century, getting to the South Pole was the challenge. Britain's Robert Scott and Norway's Roald Amundsen tried. ...more
Venkiteswaran Ramasamy
Feb 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Not too often does one come across a book that is thrill-a-minute & adrenaline pumping, is a study in planning, leadership styles & crisis management and is non-fictional, fully based on real life events.

As far as personalities go, Amundsen and Scott were the proverbial poles apart. And that’s probably what set them apart in their pursuit for pole position in the race to the South pole. Huntford does a wonderful comparative character study, although his no holds barred all out attack on Scott do
Herb Hastings
Jul 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 08, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Kavanand (Reading for Two)
The Last Place on Earth is an exhaustive, well-researched account of Scott and Amundsen's race to the South Pole, but I can't rate it any higher because of the author's huge bias against Scott. I get it--Scott isn't my favorite either, but contempt and loathing ooze off every page, which makes it a little hard to trust the author's conclusions. ...more
Mar 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
An amazing leadership case study!
Neil Kenealy
Jun 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The book starts out as two separate biographies of Roald Amundson from Norway and Robert Falcon Scott from England. the story is told from before both births right up to when they raced to the South Pole in 1911/1912. This book came out first in 1979 when everyone associated with the expedition was long dead. Scott had been elevated to the national hero of the British Empire but this book debunked that myth and caused controversy in Britain. Telford proves that Scott made huge mistakes even all ...more
Mar 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: classics, nonfiction
It's long and slow, like a long hike to the South Pole, but don't let that fool you. This thing is like "Antarctic Citizen Kane."

Huntford takes 100 pages establishing Amundsen's skill and acumen. Then in about 40, he dismantles the myth of Scott. The book that follows from this set-up functions as a revisionist history in which Amundsen's name is elevated at the expense of Scott's mythmaking, and in between are fresh insights on how geopolitical PR campaigns have long had a lasting influence on
Carl Barlow
May 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Huntford does not suffer fools gladly, and, by Christ, does he consider Scott a fool.

He has absolutely nothing good to say about an explorer more widely regarded as an ill-fated hero, other than back-handed compliments on his ability as a writer. He blames Scott almost exclusively for the tragedy at the South Pole (though he does also, more generally, lay blame to British Navy methods and, by extension, British attitudes of the the time). He derides Scott's inability to learn from his mistakes,
Apr 26, 2020 rated it liked it
This book can be a great exercise in critical thinking. Huntford’s bias for Amundsen and disdain against Scott can be very subtle (e.g. “Amundsen seemed to...”) or exaggerated (to the extent of accusing Scott of holding Wilson and Bowers back and dooming them to protect his reputation - with pretty much no evidence). I’m not too thrilled about his notions of femininity either, but it’s written in the 70s so gah, never mind. So just be very aware of his biases as you read, and after you’re done, ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Worst Journey in the World
  • Endurance
  • South: The Story of Shackleton's Last Expedition 1914-1917
  • Mawson's Will: The Greatest Polar Survival Story Ever Written
  • Farthest North
  • The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition
  • In the Land of White Death: An Epic Story of Survival in the Siberian Arctic
  • Labyrinth of Ice: The Triumphant and Tragic Greely Polar Expedition
  • The Ice Master
  • The Lost Men: The Harrowing Saga of Shackleton's Ross Sea Party
  • Captain Scott
  • Alone on the Ice: The Greatest Survival Story in the History of Exploration
  • Over the Edge of the World: Magellan's Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe
  • South with Endurance: Shackleton's Antarctic Expedition 1914-1917
  • Into Africa: The Epic Adventures of Stanley & Livingstone
  • Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors
  • Franklin Barbecue: A Meat-Smoking Manifesto
  • Eiger Dreams: Ventures Among Men and Mountains
See similar books…
Roland Huntford (né Horwitch) is an author, principally of biographies of Polar explorers.

Related Articles

Happy Women's History Month! One of the undisputedly good things about modern scholarship is that women’s history is finally getting its due....
103 likes · 18 comments
“Where imaginary mole hills turn into hallucinatory mountains” 2 likes
“Men, as Amundsen liked to say, are the unknown factor in the Antarctic.” 1 likes
More quotes…