At the Bottom of the World
Two school teachers fulfill lifelong dream of skiing across Antarctica
BY: Ann Bancroft
Wind ... where on earth was the wind? I stopped, my labored breath crystallizing instantly in the freezing air, and for the hundredth time that day adjusted the harness connecting me to the 250-pound fiberglass sled I was dragging.
It was late afternoon on January 10, 2000-the tail end of Antarctica's all-too-brief summer, when for a few months temperatures at the bottom of the world rise to comparatively survivable levels.
Liv Arnesen, my expedition partner, pulled up her sled beside me, and together we gazed at the landscape before us. The sun, hovering just above the horizon without ever rising or setting, cast a golden glow across a field of sastrugi-rock-hard waves of ice that cover much of the continent's surface, sculpted and smoothed by month upon month of strong, steady wind. But today there was not even a hint of a breeze.
"How's your wrist, Liv?"
"Bad. Your shoulder?"
"The same," I said. "Should we just make camp here?"
Liv scrutinized the vast expanse of ice. "Maybe we should try to get in at least a few more miles," she said.
"Yeah, you're right. I don't want to have to tell the kids that six miles was the best we could do." We fell back into step, leaning against our harnesses like a pair of mules plowing an endless white field.
Over the past two months, Liv and I had pulled our sleds and equipment nearly a thousand miles en route to the South Pole, the halfway mark for a 2,000-mile journey that would make us the first women to traverse Antarctica on foot. Yet with each passing day, the odds of success were getting slimmer. In about a month the perpetual daylight of summer would give way to the long, black, unimaginably frigid night of Antarctic winter. February 15 was the last day any pilot would be willing to risk an ice landing to pick us up, and we were hopelessly behind schedule.