"Great God! this is an awful place..."

Long quote:

"The Pole...Great God! this is an awful place and terrible enough for us to have laboured to it without the reward of priority. Well, it is something to have got here, and the wind may be our friend to-morrow. Now for the run home and a desperate struggle. I wonder if we can do it. "

These words are from British explorer Scott's diary of 17 January 1912 on the subject of the Antarctic Pole. They had just arrived at the South Pole, only to find that the Norwegian explorer Amundsen had got there a month before them (and left a tent to mark the fact). Already in bad shape, the British team were bitterly disappointed, and had to face the long journey back in the knowledge that they were not the victors. In fact, these were not Scott's truly last words, since he did not die for another 2 months. But they mark an absolute turning point in his fortunes, and resonate with the desperation the team must have felt and their foreboding of death on the return journey, during which all of the five-man team perished.

Robert Falcon Scott (1868-1912) English explorer

Pole (noun): the most southerly or northerly place on Earth (in this case southerly)
awful (adjective): very bad; very unpleasant
terrible (adjective): seriously bad; very distressing
labour (verb) BrE spelling: work hard; make a great effort
reward of priority: satisfaction of winning
desperate (adjective): hopeless; with little hope of success
struggle (noun): great physical effort; fight
in bad shape (expression): unwell; physically exhausted
bitterly (adverb): painfully
fortunes (noun): chances of success or failure
resonate (verb): suggest (images of); evoke
foreboding (noun): a feeling that something bad is going to happen
perish (verb): die

Contributor: Josef Essberger