Amundsen opened up vast frontiers with dogs and led the way. In his wake scientific base camps were established around Antarctica’s peninsula to penetrate the interior for scientific studies. For decades dog teams were the only means of travel.
Less than 90 years after the feats of Amundsen and Scott, scientists and bureaucracy banned dogs from Antarctica. Dogs, the most environmentally friendly means of polar transport.
If you believe that Antarctica is still one great huge wilderness, think again. The Americans have built a 1,600 km road for their scientists called the South Pole Traverse and this leads from McMurdo on the coast to the South Pole. It took four diesel-burning years to build. And its purpose? The Americans control the South Pole and have built monstrous buildings there, all to do with science apparently, except for the gift shop where you can buy your I Love The South Pole T-shirt. Scientists as the saviours of Antarctica? They don’t exactly practise what they preach. It is all the more pathetic when you think back all those years and acknowledge that this was a place first seen by explorers and dogs with backbone that sacrificed everything to explore the unknown but are now banned from the continent.
Somewhere along the line the pursuit of science has become very fashionable and the pursuit of exploration and adventure considered less worthy. The joy and love of pure adventure should not be an outdated sentiment. The spirit of exploration runs deep in mankind. It is an integral part of the human condition. Explorers take the risks to get us there. Science follows. Three cheers for the explorers.
One thing that makes the achievements of Amundsen and Scott even more remarkable is that they had to (with cap in hand) raise the vast funds for their journeys on their own and spent years after paying off the debts (in the case of Scott, his widow). That was true dedication to their dreams and goals.
It is so transparently obvious that the real reason why the South Pole is now used as a scientific centre is to create some kind of validity to what goes on there. Generally I have a very low opinion of polar scientists. In all my time of living in the Arctic I have already met more than my fair share and from what I have seen, I am sorry to say they are, as a breed, conceited and rude creatures with double standards. But don't take my word for it. When I lived in Arctic Canada the term JAFA (Just Another F*cking Academic) was rife among locals. In my experience scientists passing through Arctic communities leave little behind but memories of incessant demands and condescending behaviour.
This is not a day for scientists.
Amundsen and Scott, tonight I salute you both. You did it your way and in ways that should never be forgotten.
|Three cheers for the explorers|
For more about Gary and his dogs go to www.garyrolfe.com