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There was an article in the Sunday supplement of my newspaper about plans for commemorative treks to the South Pole as the hundredth anniversary of it first being reached approaches. It caught my attention perhaps in part because I was reading a book about a commemorative trek that took place twenty-five years ago, a book I'd been aware of for a while but which I'd just got a copy of. "South Pole: 900 Miles on Foot" is by Gareth Wood (who made the trip) and Eric Jamieson (who helped him write the book), and followed ten years or so after what might be thought of the "official book" by the expedition's leader (who, as it turned out, was quoted in the newspaper article), but it's not a "tell-all," just perhaps a different perspective admitting to personality conflicts along the way.

The expedition was called "The Footsteps of Scott Expedition," at a time when a new orthodoxy was being built up around the second to the pole Robert Falcon Scott as, perhaps summing it up a little too neatly, inevitably doomed through his every decision being wrong. I first heard about the expedition through an article in National Geographic, and the letters about that article tended to criticise the expedition for trying to commemorate Scott. There seems no overt attack on the legacy in this book; extravagant theories like "if Gareth Wood had disagreed with the idea of commemoration, he wouldn't have signed up in the first place, but if he was just interested in getting to the pole the name might not have mattered" swam through my mind but couldn't be supported by the book. One part of the expedition that did catch my attention was a trip made in the dark of the Antarctic winter across Ross Island, repeating one made by three members of Scott's expedition, but where the first amounted to "The Worst Journey in the World" modern clothing technology made the repeat much less gruelling.

If there was something of a theme to the whole expedition, I wonder if it could be about the journey being made in a place now touched, however lightly in parts, by other people. The scientific staff of the various stations seem positive enough in general about the people who raised money to go to Antarctica (and drop into small huts set up in out-of-the-way places), but they do have to deal with official policies discouraging aid for private adventurers. It might, though, be both food for thought and a distraction from the "real" story for some people.

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