A century is not a very long time. Life is short or whatever, but people live to be 100. One hundred years ago yesterday, we had never touched the southernmost point on earth. We had automobiles. And planes. But we'd never been to the South Pole.
Roald Amundsen and his tiny crew were the first humans to leave footprints on the South Pole, on Dec. 14, 1911. Amundsen and his team were racing against another, the British Terra Nova expedition, led by Robert Falcon Scott. The Terra Nova expedition didn't just lose; they died.
Scott had some better technology, on paper. Namely, a pair of motor sledges greatly feared by the Norwegian expedition. They didn't make it very far. Amundsen's dogs did. It's hard to say, even after reading the American Natural History Museum's fantastic Race to the End during my time off last month, how badly Scott was doomed by sheer bad luck versus staggeringly poor decision-making, but it's clear that Amundsen's intelligence, drive and respect for nature is why he won. He was also a tricky bastard.