When Captain Scott died in 1912 on his way back from the South Pole, his story became a myth embedded in the English imagination. Despite wars and social change, despite recent debunking, it is still there. Conventional histories of polar exploration tend to trace the laborious expeditions across the map, dwelling on the proper techniques of ice navigation and sledge travel, rather than asking what the explorers thought they were doing, or why. This book, in contrast, is about the poles as they have been perceived, dreamed of, even desired, and offers a cultural history of a national obsession with polar explorers and mountaineers. It sets out to show how Scott's death in 1912 was the culmination of a long-running national enchantment with perilous journeys to the ends of the earth.