Welcome to the NavList Message Boards.


A Community Devoted to the Preservation and Practice of Celestial Navigation and Other Methods of Traditional Wayfinding

Compose Your Message

Add Images & Files
    Explorers or adventurers?
    From: George Huxtable
    Date: 2002 Jul 4, 20:13 +0100

    On 3rd July 2002, under the thread "Reaching the Pole", I said, referring
    to the expeditions to the South Pole by Amundsen and Scott-
    >To me, the whole business was a tragic exercise in futility. That such
    >teams should devote their energies, and for some, their lives, to being the
    >first to reach an otherwise undistinguished spot in a barren wasteland,
    >seems such a waste of human endeavour.
    This seems to have raised a few hackles, politely expressed.
    Robert Eno said-
    >And here I respectfully disagree with you. The quest for the poles
    >epitomizes the human drive for knowledge and discovery. Men like Amundsen
    >turned it into a successful military precision-like operation rather than
    >heroic death. Without that drive, where would we be today? I suppose a lot
    >of people felt the same way about the American efforts to reach the moon. It
    >is all a matter of perspective.
    Rodney Myrvaagnes said-
    >It is easy to agree from a present-day perspective, but the poles at
    >that time must have been like the summit of Everest and then some, in
    >popular consciousness.
    Peter Fogg said-
    >Its a legitimate comment, but you never know in advance where so many human
    >endeavours that may seem futile might lead. A good example is our system of
    >navigation, a useful application of the age-old study of astronomy. I can just
    >imagine stone age women busy, as always, grinding meal, hacking beasts apart
    >with lumps of once sharp flint, while their menfolk, as always, occupied
    >themselves with contemplation of the star studded evening.
    >'Why don't you lot do something useful for once - you could at least invent a
    >proper knife!'
    >Antarctica, especially in summer, is infested with scientists who find it a
    >place of endless fascination. The current applications of interest include
    >research into global warming and climate change - the past is interred there
    >in thick layers of ice, also the hole in the ozone layer, and I remember that
    >the meteorite that was thought for a time to contain evidence of life on Mars
    >was found down there.
    >In any case it seems part of our nature to push at whatever boundaries there
    >are. Scott put a modest classified ad. in 'The Times' calling for volunteers
    >for his expedition, promising no pay and much hardship and danger. He was
    >flooded with applications.flooded with applications.
    Perhaps there's a worthwhile argument to be had here, so I will try to
    defend my position.
    I have great admiration for those that go in search of the unknown, to
    contribute to the total of human knowledge, often at risk of their own
    lives. These, for shorthand, I will call the "explorers". Cook was the
    archetype, but there were many others equally worthy of respect.
    I have no respect for those who indulge in an exploit simply because it
    hasn't been done before, for the purpose of national or personal glory, or
    to get their names into the "Guinness Book of Records". Especially if they
    risk their own lives in doing so, or depend on the rescue services to
    extract them from trouble. These I refer to as the "adventurers". Fossett,
    in his balloon, is a typical recent example.
    That's my attitude, anyway: others may take a different view.
    So how would I categorise the various South-Pole expeditions?
    At the time of Scott's first expedition, in 1902-3, his voyage toward the
    Pole was in quite uncharted territory. I regard that as valid exploration.
    As it happened, he didn't even get to the inner edge of the Ross ice-shelf
    and on to the land, so he left much to be discovered.
    Next came Shackleton, in 1908-9, who found Antarctic ring of glaciated
    mountains, which he managed to penetrate. On reaching the featureless high
    plateau, Shackleton had to head somewhere, and it was reasonable to aim
    toward the Pole. This, too, is to me genuine, commendable exploration. He
    had to turn back when within 100 nautical miles of the Pole, at which point
    there was no indication that any geographical features would become
    apparent in that wasteland.
    Now came the Amundsen expedition, and the second Scott expedition, both in
    1911-12. Scott was to follow the same path to the plateua as had
    Shackleton, so there was little for him to discover. Amundsen, at least,
    had approached from a new direction so there was some new geography for him
    to note down.
    What happened to these teams when they had mounted the glaciers and reached
    the high plateau? If geography and discovery had been their aim, they would
    have struck out in a different direction from the South Pole, to explore
    new territory on the plateau well away from that already covered by
    Shackleton. Perhaps Amundsen might have veered off to his left, and Scott
    to his right. No chance of that! The aim of both was for that featureless
    spot, at 90 deg South. Not any interest in knowledge or discovery, then,
    but in personal achievement, publicity, and glory. To me, they count as
    adventurers rather than explorers. Others may differ.
    In effect, the polar journeys of that summer of 1911-12 were
    anti-scientific. Being right at the limits of human capability, there was
    no time available, and no carrying capacity, and no intention, for any
    scientific programme up on that plateau. Just a dash to the Pole and a dash
    back again. Once the Pole had been "conquered", that plateau then remained
    unvisited for many years to come. The incentive had gone.
    In making these comments, I have no wish to denigrate the bravery, or the
    dedication of the participants in the Polar journeys: only their
    motivation. Nor do I wish to devalue the scientific achievements of those
    members of the two expeditions who were not involved with the race for the
    Pole, but instead made worthwhile contributions to knowledge, nearer to the
    edge of the continent.
    Robert Eno compares these events with the American efforts to reach the
    Moon. However disreputable the motivation behind the Moon adventure (to
    beat the Russians) those visits by men to the surface were genuine
    exploration in its true sense, contributing significantly to knowledge, and
    to public perception of what such alien worlds might be like.
    George Huxtable, 1 Sandy Lane, Southmoor, Abingdon, Oxon OX13 5HX, UK.
    Tel. 01865 820222 or (int.) +44 1865 820222.

    Browse Files

    Drop Files


    What is NavList?

    Join NavList

    (please, no nicknames or handles)
    Do you want to receive all group messages by email?
    Yes No

    You can also join by posting. Your first on-topic post automatically makes you a member.

    Posting Code

    Enter the email address associated with your NavList messages. Your posting code will be emailed to you immediately.

    Email Settings

    Posting Code:

    Custom Index

    Start date: (yyyymm dd)
    End date: (yyyymm dd)

    Visit this site
    Visit this site
    Visit this site
    Visit this site
    Visit this site
    Visit this site