On September 12, before spring had set in, Amundsen made his first dash for the South Pole.  The result was the death of valuable dogs and frostbite on the feet of his men that would require a month to heal. Amundsen promptly decided to hurry back to his base and patiently wait for spring. He desperately wanted to win the race to the South Pole, but he realized that it involved teamwork with his men and the weather. Like great managers, Amundsen was aggressive but not stupid.

Focus on Operational Efficiency: Amundsen first evaluated the shortest possible route to the South Pole and then evaluated the fastest way to get to it and back.

Amundsen realized that skis would be the fastest way to traverse through the Antarctic ice. So he recruited a team of well experienced skiers, with champion skier, Olav Bjaaland, as the front runner. In contrast, Scott never learned to ski proficiently, so he and his men trudged, pulling their own sledges.

Amundsen knew from his time with the Inuit that dogs were superior haulers and that the issue of calories would eventually determine survival or death. Scott grossly miscalculated the calorie burn from man-hauling, and that combined with poor food depot planning (location, contents, fuel) contributed to his team’s demise. It is reported that Amundsen’s team actually gained weight during their successful return trip.

In the end, Amundsen’s expedition benefited from his careful preparation, good equipment, appropriate clothing, an understanding of dogs and their handling, and the effective use of skis


In Amundsen’s own words:I may say that this is the greatest factor—the way in which the expedition is equipped—the way in which every difficulty is foreseen, and precautions taken for meeting or avoiding it. Victory awaits him who has everything in order—luck, people call it. Defeat is certain for him who has neglected to take the necessary precautions in time; this is called bad luck.