Shortcut Navigation:

Race to the End of the Earth

Race to the End of the Earth recounts one of the most stirring tales in the annals of Antarctic exploration, the contest to reach the South Pole. This exhibition focused on the challenges that the two leaders—Roald Amundsen on the Norwegian side and Robert Falcon Scott on the British—faced as they undertook their separate 1,800-mile journeys from the edge of the Ross Ice Shelf to the South Pole and back.

Exhibition Highlights



The Expeditions

Both Roald Amundsen and Robert Falcon Scott were pursuing the same goal in their race to the South Pole: to be first. Each was faced with the daunting task of convincing investors, scientific organizations, and governments to fund their respective journeys.



Goals of the Expeditions

For Amundsen, significance came from being the first to do something, but his drive for success was not entirely a matter of ego. For Scott, the significance of this journey was a more complex issue. Being first at the South Pole mattered, but so did science.



Amundsen's Expedition

Born to a family of Norwegian ship-owners on July 16, 1872, Roald Amundsen was four years younger than Robert F. Scott. Despite his mother's hopes that he would become a doctor, Amundsen knew by the age of 15 that he would one day be an explorer.



Scott's Expedition

Born in 1868, Robert Falcon Scott began his naval career as a 13-year-old cadet aboard the training ship HMS Britannia. At 15 he became a midshipman and began a steady progression up the career ladder of the Royal Navy, becoming a lieutenant specializing in the new technology of torpedoes in 1889.



The Legacy

With few exceptions, the scientists of the Heroic Age had one chance, and one only, to go to Antarctica. If they didn't get what they needed in their sole throw of the dice, they were out of luck.



A Century Later

Scott, Amundsen, and Ernest Shackleton were among the most successful of what we may call the celebrity explorers of the early 20th century. Like celebrities today, their fame was only partly due to accomplishment; the rest came from whatever aspects of society's desires and ambitions they reflected back.



About the Exhibition

Race to the End of the Earth vividly re-created, through dioramas and period detail, how Amundsen and Scott prepared for their polar journeys. Nutrition, human endurance, equipment, logistics, and Antarctica's extreme weather were among the many factors that each team had to evaluate, often with far too little information to avoid tragedy and ensure triumph.

Race to the End of the Earth is organized by the American Museum of Natural History, New York, in collaboration with Musée des Confluences, Lyon, France, and Royal BC Museum, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.

Generous support for Race to the End of the Earth  has been provided by the Eileen P. Bernard Exhibition Fund, Marshall P. and Rachael Levine, and Drs. Harlan B. and Natasha Levine.

Additional support has been provided by the Government of the United Kingdom and the National Science Foundation under Grant No. ANT 0636639.

British Consulate General NY logo


Race to the End of the Earth

American Museum of Natural History

Central Park West at 79th Street
New York, NY 10024-5192
Phone: 212-769-5100

Open daily from 10 am-5:45 pm
except on Thanksgiving and Christmas
Maps and Directions

Enlighten Your Inbox

Stay informed about Museum news and research, events, and more!