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Boulder, CO, Feb. 22, 2001–Ninety-three days and 2,300-miles after their historic expedition began, two former schoolteachers skied and trekked their way into the record books Sunday as they became the first women to cross Antarctica. What began on Nov. 13 as an attempt to cross the entire Antarctic landmass and the adjoining Ross Ice Shelf ended in a peculiar combination of both jubilation and disappointment.
The 45-year old American Ann Bancroft and 47-year old Norwegian Liv Arnesen faced a critical decision on Thursday, Feb. 15. Continue on, and pray for several days of perfect wind conditions, or end their trip 470 miles from their planned pick-up point where the Ross Ice Shelf blends into the ocean. Should they miss their deadline they would surely meet the cold Antarctic winter rapidly approaching.
Although difficult, they decided to call off the rest of the journey. After a storm cleared, a rescue plane flew them to the McMurdo station where they waited another 18 hours for winds to abate. They then took a short helicopter ride to a waiting ship and boated to Cape Adare, Antarctica before moving on to New Zealand.
If Bancroft and Arnesen’s journey from Antarctica seems complex, the previous few months must have been chaos. During the day they wore no less than five layers of clothes to battle sub-zero temperatures. Instead of showering, they rinsed and wiped themselves clean for the duration of the trip and only changed their undergarments once a month. Since each woman was pulling a 250-pound sled at all times, weight factored importantly in everything they brought. Ann even cut her toothbrush in half to use the saved weight to bring a family photo.
Although a rigorous and lengthy journey, Liv and Ann are proud of their accomplishments and that they educated others through their experiences. Even after spending three months on the world’s highest and coldest continent, Liv and Ann had grown attached to the icy land and felt sad to leave.
“It is hard to explain one’s feelings at the end of a journey,” commented Ann. “I was teary with my forehead pressed against the cold window pane (of the plane).”