More Native Ingenuity

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The article on the front page today on Native Ingenuity reminds me of a book a physicist co-worker had me read. The Last Place on Earth by Roland Huntford is a revisionist account of the race for the South Pole in 1911. Persuasively demythologizing Britain’s Robert Scott in favor of Norway’s Roald Amundsen (who actually was first to the pole) one of the themes is that Scott looked down his nose at learning from inferior folks like Eskimos. Amundsen sensibly decided that there might be something to learn from folks who had lived in polar conditions for generations. So Amundsen apprenticed to Eskimos and became proficient in the use of skis and dogs while Scott “clung fast to the British rule of ‘No skis, no dogs'”. Scott’s team perished through what Huntford argues was the fault of the “stupid… recklessly incompetent” Scott. I’ve never read a book about exploration before or since but this carefully researched account was as gripping as any novel. (This mini-series was based on Huntford’s book and is a worthwhile rental).

7:24 pm on September 8, 2005