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Scott vs. Amundsen: Keep Calm and Eat your Veggies

1 min read

By Rachel Hilton, VP Marketing & Product

In May of 2013, I had the pleasure of attending a preview of the Royal BC Museum's current exhibit, Race to the End of the Earth, which recounts Scott and Amundsen's separate journeys through Antarctica in the contest to reach the South Pole. Quark Expeditions was one of the sponsors of the exhibition.

The exhibition details the challenges that both the Norwegian and British leaders faced as they each journeyed 2900 km from the edge of the Ross Ice Shelf to the South Pole and back again. The exhibit itself was fascinating, but the preceding lecture by curator, Dr. Ross MacPhee, really gave me an appreciation for the fact that despite superficial similarities the Scott and Amundsen expeditions, they actually differed on two key fronts: traditional knowledge and diet.

Amundsen vs. Scott

Amundsen552 sled dogs4

23 sled dogs

10 ponies

2 motorized sleds


A first glance, it would seem that Scott's team was abundantly equipped. However, the ponies and primitive motorized vehicles Scott brought failed him, and he was forced to use mostly man power to drag his heavy sledges.

Scott team diet Scott Team Diet. Clockwise from left: cocoa, pemmican, biscuits, butter, tea and sugar cubes.

What's more, Scott's team's diet was not sufficient for all that hauling. According to Dr. MacPhee, the daily sledging ration for one man for one day consisted of cocoa powder, sugar cubes, tea, pemmican, biscuits and butter (approximately 4,240 calories). Meanwhile, the estimated required nourishment for man-hauling is at least 5,500 calories. The diet itself was also deficient in vitamin C which was why many of Scott's team contracted scurvy.

Meanwhile, Amundsen's team had stored 60 tons of seal meat in their winter quarters; which Amundsen thought was enough for themselves and 110 dogs (including pups born on the journey south). At winter's end, seal meat was supplemented with tinned meats. For dessert, they ate green plums, tinned California fruits, as well as cloudberries, a golden-yellow, soft and juicy berry, rich in vitamin C.

When Scott and his party arrived at the Pole to find that the Norwegian team had already arrived, they had lost a lot of weight, were suffering from the effects of the cold and an inadequate diet. Finding themselves beaten to the Pole, Scott and his two remaining companions, suffering from severe frostbite and wounds, turned around and trudged back to base camp, only to be trapped in a prolonged blizzard, out of food and fuel, and froze to death in their tent. They were only 11 miles from the next supply depot.

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