The first woman to visit Antarctica was Caroline Mikkelsson, the wife of a Norwegian whaling captain, when she stepped ashore at Vestford Hills. Edith Ronnie and Jennifer Darlington were the first women to winter in Antarctica in 1947 48 on Stonington Island on the Antarctic Peninsula. There continue to be many who attempt to cross the Antarctic or reach the South Pole in a new or special way in order to be ‘the first’ in their particular goal. The Norwegian Erling Kagge was the first to ski alone to the South Pole in 1993 (having with Borge Ousland in 1990 become the first team to ski to the North Pole; although, as with Peary, there are disputes to that latter claim). In 1994, Liv Arnesen, also of Norway, became the first woman to ski alone and without re-supplies to the
South Pole from Hercules Inlet, hauling her sledge containing the food and equipment for 1,120 km for 49 days. Ms Arnesen is currently planning, together with Anne Bancroft of the US, to become the first woman to cross the Antarctic. Robert Swan, and two companions, completed the longest unassisted trek to the South Pole in 1986 and was awarded the Polar Medal. Swan was totally inspired by Scott’s heroism and dedicated his expedition to him. As a further act of self-reliance, his team, like Scott’s, took no radios or dog teams with them. He then went on to become the first man to trek to both Poles when he reached the North Pole in May 1989. With a name like Swan I guess the white ice was always likely to be his natural habitat.
Map Of Arctic Circle Photo Gallery
In what has been termed a classic re-run of the fierce contest and rivalry between Amundsen and Scott of 1911, a similar contest was played out over 85 years later. The Norwegian, Borge Ousland, and the Brit, Sir Ranulph Fiennes, separately tried to be the first person to walk alone across Antarctica, both starting out on 15 November 1996. There were two other main contenders fighting their way across the ice at the same time, a Pole, Marek Kaminski, and a South Korean, Ho Young Heo. (I suppose if they had jointly made it they would have been referred to as the South Korean Pole.) Kaminski is the first person to ski to both Poles in the same year and Ho has also skied to both Poles. Unfortunately throughout his attempt Fiennes suffered badly from kidney stones and finally had to drop out on 27 December. Ousland battled on to win through and completed his journey in freezing temperatures of less than -40 oC on 17 January 1997. Ousland’s route started from Berkner Island in the Ronne Ice Shelf, across the
South Pole, then down the Beardmore Glacier. He crossed the Ross Ice Shelf, finally and triumphantly reaching Scott Base, on skis, 64 days later instead of the originally predicted 90 days. Awaiting him was a telegram from Fiennes, ‘Enormous Congratulations.’ It was a terrific achievement. In September 1999 Fiennes purchased a biscuit found next to the body of Scott for nearly £4,000. He then generously donated it to the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust so it could be put on display. I suppose you could really call that taking or rather giving the biscuit!
There will always be someone who wants to find a new ‘first’ in attempting to reach the South Pole. Recently there has been the story of a married couple, Mike and Fiona Thornewill, who became the first husband and wife team to trek to the Pole. In recording their success their motto undoubtedly should be, ‘where there’s a Thornewill, there’s a way.’ Unfortunately there was also a price, as with most polar expeditions; Fiona suffered some frostbite facial injuries which are likely to remain. The Thornewills are currently planning to trek to the North Pole together. In January 2000, a British team became the first women to trek to both Poles, a terrific way to salute the millennium. The permutations are obviously endless. But the hazards also remain and no one should venture into the Antarctic without being fully aware of the dangers that will always be faced. In 1997 a six-strong band of sky divers attempted to join the handful of those who have sky-dived over both the North and South Pole. All had jumped successfully at the North Pole but sadly, in the south, three parachutes failed to open and the three men died. No one is exactly certain why this tragedy occurred. Perhaps it was the fact that the air is much thinner and colder so the dives become faster. They might also have experienced a white-out and misjudged how close they were to the flat ice terrain. Perhaps I will be the first man to reach there with his fingers crossed all the way!
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