Originally called Scott and Amundsen, this book by Roland Huntford got the more market-friendly title of "The Last Place on Earth" when it was made into a television series of that name. The book describes the race for the South Pole: unlike most of this genre it is no rattling yarn of derring do, but a piercing analysis of the differences in personality, management style and philosophy of exploration that meant that one side (Amundsen) won the race, and came back safe and well, and the other (Scott) lost the race, and perished on their return. Not only is the tale fascinating, but lessons can be drawn that are applicable to many areas of life and business.
Scott dabbled in modern technology (for example, a disastrous attempt at using a diesel-powered sledge), but really felt the noblest way of travel was hauling everything along using man-power. This exhausted and eventually killed the team. Amundsen spent years with the Inuit, knew all about how they used dogs, and brought the best dog handler he could find. With Inuit practicality, he was not too squeamish to kill dogs and feed them to the rest of the pack. As much as possible, traditional materials and techniques were used for the journey. While Amundsen and co were snug inside the best of Inuit clothing, Scott and co shivered in what Victorian Britain was currently able to come up with in the line of extreme weather gear.
But a more fundamental difference was in the management approach. Scott ran along Navy lines, with a command and control hierarchy, orders coming down from above. Amundsen ran something more like a Viking raid, where everyone sat around the table and planned their next moves, though the final say was always with the leader. Everyone knew and committed to what was going on.
Finally, there was a divergence in goals. Scott never seemed to be clear whether he was on a scientific expedition, trying to be first at the Pole, or, as it most often seemed at the end, engaged in some heroic but doomed demonstration of the physical prowess of the British race. Amundsen was clear: the goal was to get to the Pole fast and light, using traditional Arctic people's proven techniques and food to get fast and safe across the Antarctic.
History is not always written by the winners: Scott of the Antarctic became an icon of post-World War 1 Britain, and Amundsen and co were airbrushed out as crafty Nordics who had turned the whole thing into some kind of stunt. This powerful and revisionist book sets the record straight.