Mark your calendar. Call your friends. Book a table at your favourite restaurant. If you are passionate about the polar regions, December 14, 2011, is a day to party – hard. Roald Amundsen became the first human to reach the South Pole 100 years before.
Norway is celebrating the feat with a variety of special events. The country has another polar hero – Fridtjof Nansen. One polar historian I know claimed Nansen to be the ultimate polar hero, more important than Amundsen, Scott, Shackleton or Mawson. That is a pretty big claim, which she supported with passion during her lecture. Norway thinks he is so important that they are celebrating Nansen-Amundsen Year in 2011.
If you have alternate plans for December 14, 2011, don’t worry. You’ll have another occasion to mark in January. Robert Falcon Scott became the second human to reach the South Pole, January 17, 1912. Scott who, with his companions, died on the return journey became a national hero – Scott of the Antarctic. Oddly, Scott’s failure and death overshadowed the successful and living Amundsen’s feat.
You can split the difference, and honor both historic events on New Year’s Eve. Polar explorers were known to use occasions like New Year’s Eve and Mardi Gras to party. Six months of darkness and bone-chilling cold will do that to a human being.
If you want to stay at home to celebrate, my suggestion is a polar movie marathon with Scott of the Antarctic at the top of the list. Kenneth Branagh as Shackleton in The Endurance. A Scottish distillery has recreated the whiskey Sir Ernest left behind in Antarctica – a wee dram of that would be appropriate. Happy Feet and The Thing are two family friendly movies set in Antarctica to add to the movie marathon.
One final suggestion: Do a kindness for a friend recently returned from the polar regions. Invite him or her over to show you the photos.