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Cape Town, South Africa, Nov. 15, 2000–In an adventure most people would label insane, two middle-aged former teachers embarked on an expedition to become the first women to cross-country ski unaided across Antarctica. Their journey began on Nov. 14, 12 days after their original departure date was postponed due to inclement weather. The 45 year-old American, Ann Bancroft, and the 47 year-old Norwegian, Liv Arnesen, flew from Cape Town, South Africa, to Queen Maud Land in Antarctica on Nov. 13 and did a trial run with all their equipment before beginning their adventures.
The 2,400-mile trek should take about three and a half months, or 100 days, to complete. The two explorers timed their journey to coincide with the six-month Antarctic summer allowing little room for error, since the light and relative warmth from the sun will disappear in mid-February.
Bancroft and Arnesen plan to cover approximately 15-30 miles a day in 14-16 hour intervals. They’ll ski the entire time, and when the conditions allow, parachute-like sails will increase their speed by 25 times or more. The women need to consume up to 5,000 calories and drink five pints of hot liquids a day to keep up their energy and to cope with the Antarctic summer temperatures, which average minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit and the winds blast up to 100 mph.
Throughout the trip, each woman will tow a 250-pound sled loaded with food and supplies, including high tech communication equipment. They plan to relay their experiences over the Internet to millions of schoolchildren worldwide with help from the U.S. National Center for Health Education (NCHE). NCHE, partnered with expedition organizer Base Camp Promotions, is preparing a complementary curriculum to be distributed to more than 30,000 U.S. classrooms, from kindergartners through sixth graders.
“It’s difficult, but we really love to do this,” said Arnesen, who lives in Oslo. “We love the Antarctic, we love skiing and, of course, talking to Kids all over the world is a lot of inspiration for us.”
Check back with SkiNet for updated information on the Bancroft Arnesen Expedition.