I have just finished reading a new biography about Scott of the Antarctic. Having always been a Shackleton fan (and I’ve read a great deal about the Polar explorer and Scott’s ‘rival’) I can’t say I had too much interest in Scott. The book illustrated the big differences between the two – Scott being very aware of his duty to family, king and country – being a serving Captain in the Navy and very much that typical stiff upper lip gentleman of the Edwardian period who disliked publicity or speaking in public and with an inner sense of honour. ‘Shackles’ possibly through his Irish background was the reverse – a showman, happy to bask in and use publicity, an individual who often bent the rules and used charm and charisma to achieve objectives. Scott’s planning was detailed; Shackleton’s general. Scott was primarily seeking the South Pole for country and Empire; Shackleton was seeking it for personal glory. Yet as different as they were, they both shared the same set of values – bravery, courage and leadership in the most arduous of situations. Imagine the mental strength and effort to drag a sledge with 250 lbs of kit over a crevasse ridden glacier in temperatures down to minus 45C achieving as little as 1 mile in 14 hours then do it again and again for week after week; month after month. Every age produces its own heroes (today that would be celebrity chefs, models and footballers) but will we ever see the like of Scott and Shackleton again?
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