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Original Issue

Under Review

In January 1912 Robert Falcon Scott, a British naval officer, and his team of four men arrived at the South Pole, only to discover that Norwegian Roald Amundsen had five weeks earlier become the first man to reach that destination. Two months later, on their return to base camp, Scott's entire team perished; Scott died just 11 miles from a cache of food and heating oil. In recent years he's been called an inept, irrational bungler. In Tragedy at the Pole (PBS, Nov. 24, 8 p.m.), Susan Solomon, a climatologist, reaches a different conclusion: 1912 had such abnormally severe weather that even Scott, a careful planner with a deep faith in science, stood little chance of surviving the five-month, 1,800-mile round-trip. Mixing interviews with photographs and recreations of the arduous journey in the starkly beautiful landscape, Tragedy is effective, if a bit methodical. Most moving are Scott's diary entries. One of the men, Capt. Lawrence Oates, suffering from severe frostbite and not wanting to hold the others back, left the tent one morning, "went out into the blizzard, and we have not seen him since," wrote Scott. "Though we tried to dissuade him, we knew it was the act of a brave man and an English gentleman. We all hope to meet the end with a similar spirit, and assuredly the end is not far." --Nancy Ramsey