"Race to the End of the Earth"

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  • Chronometer

  • Chronometer with case

  • Amundsen's gun

  • Amundsen's sled

  • A portrait of Roald Amundsen

  • Amundsen on skis

  • Scott in hut at Cape Evans, Antarctica, winter of 1911

  • Scott on skis near Cape Evans, 1911

  • Scott with team at the South Pole

  • Scott with team at the South Pole

  • Man-hauling during Robert Falcon Scott's Expedition

  • Extreme cold weather clothing

Chronometer



Between 1911 and 1912, Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen and British Royal Navy captain Robert Falcon Scott embarked on separate expeditions to the South Pole. The journey was long: Amundsen traveled 16,000 miles and stopped only once (on the Portuguese island of Madeira), while Scott docked in South Africa, Australia and New Zealand on his way. But each man was driven by his dream to be the first to make the 1,800-mile trek from the Ross Ice Shelf, on the coast of Antarctica—the world's largest ice shelf—to the pole and back. Only Amundsen survived.

Between 1911 and 1912, Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen and British Royal Navy captain Robert Falcon Scott embarked on separate expeditions to the South Pole. The journey was long: Amundsen traveled 16,000 miles and stopped only once (on the Portuguese island of Madeira), while Scott docked in South Africa, Australia and New Zealand on his way. But each man was driven by his dream to be the first to make the 1,800-mile trek from the Ross Ice Shelf, on the coast of Antarctica—the world's largest ice shelf—to the pole and back. Only Amundsen survived.

"There's probably no other place more inhospitable to a human," explains Ross MacPhee, curator of the exhibition "Race to the End of the Earth," which opens at the American Museum of Natural History (Central Park West at 79th St; 212-769-5200, amnh.org; $14--$24) on Saturday 29 and takes museumgoers inside Amundsen and Scott's daily lives at the coldest place on earth. Life-size models of their base camps—or "giant frat huts," as MacPhee calls them—show the scant comforts of life on the ice (as many as 25 men squeezed into Scott's 17-by-7-foot camp). Photographs from the expeditions, tools and even the weather-beaten boots found on Scott's body six months after his death lend the exhibit a historical gravitas, while other elements bring today's Antarctica to life: A video projection filmed by underwater videographer Norbert Wu shows the sea spiders, giant jellyfish and blossoming purple anemones that thrive under the ice. An interactive map traces weather patterns and ocean currents, and a personality test determines whether you could withstand the region's extreme conditions (including four months of total darkness).

MacPhee, who has traveled to Antarctica five times in search of mammal fossils, admires the explorers' bravery. "Today, you have GPS and a boat hovering out in the bay to rescue you. These guys went entirely unsupported," he says. "But that's why science has developed: because a few people put themselves in extreme danger to reach places we'd never been before."—Audrey Tempelsman

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