“The Choice Is the Universe –or Nothing”

‘We may have differences of opinion as to the value of reaching the Pole. If we apply the utilitarian test, it is all small moment, but so is a poem. And what is polar exploration but an epic endeavour in which all sordidness is left behind, and in which a man, knowing the risks and challenges of failure, ventures his life and his all in a combat against the forces of ignorance? For I deem it beneath dignity of man, having once set out to reach that mathematical point which marks the northern termination of the axis of earth, which stands as a sign of his failure to dominate those millions of square miles of unknown country, to give it up because the night is dark and the road is long. He will not give it up. The polar explorer typifies the outdoor spirit of the race which has lead conquering man across all seas and through all lands, of that thirst for knowing all there is to be known, which has led him to the depths of the ocean, to the tops of the mountains, to dig in musty caves, to analyse the rays of light from distant worlds, to delve into the geologic records of past times. It will carry him to the North Pole, too, and that before many years have past. Any one who supposes anything else of man doesnt know man. His acquaintance with human nature— with the nature of the adventurous races of our zones and times— is limited.’

Walter Wellman, National Geographic, December 1899. Found in The National Geographic Society: 100 Years of Adventure and Discovery

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