Roald Amundsen (1872–1928) was not someone who did anything by half measures, and if one can possess a genius for being willful, Amundsen had it. He also had a genius for preparation and practice, and for knowing that a game can be won before it is even started. This volume marks the first publication of his South Pole diaries in English, a major event in Arctic studies, and one that makes you wonder why no one had undertaken the translation (from Norwegian) until now.

Narratives of suffering pervade Arctic literature. If Amundsen had failed miseraby or died on his journey to the Pole, would his strory be that much better known? That’s where Robert Scott’s horrible end comes in—he was found frozen in his tent having trailed Amundsen to the Pole by five weeks. Roland Huntford, whose comments are woven throughout these diaries—clarifying or filling in details—is no Scott fan. Scott, meanwhile, was no...