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One hundred years ago, in June 1911, Robert Falcon Scott and 32 explorers—most of them British scientists, naval officers or seafarers—were huddled in the darkness of the Antarctic winter, when the sun never rises above the horizon and up to eight feet of ice seals the surrounding sea. Winter temperatures on Ross Island, the southernmost piece of exposed land reached by Scott’s ship, can plunge below –50 degrees Fahrenheit. Blizzards rise up often. Lacking wireless communication and totally cut off from the outside world, the explorers waited for the longer, warmer days of spring, in October, when some of them would set out to cross nearly 900 miles of ice shelf, mountains and the Polar Plateau to arrive at a spot of no particular interest to anybody except for its location at the bottom of the earth.