Sunday, September 07, 2008

One Woman's Bi-Polar Adventures

Well, what else would you call a book written by a woman who has visited both the North and South Poles? She called it South Pole 2000, but I like my title better!

Caroline Hamilton was not an experienced adventurer or mountaineer when she decided she had to see the Arctic. She was a reasonably fit woman with a hell of a lot of determination.

First she set up a relay expedition where five teams of women took it in turns to ski from Resolute in northern Canada to the North Pole. From her descriptions, it certainly sounds like a rough journey, but with each team doing a reasonably short stint it would not seem so bad.

After that she abandoned the relay idea and decided to put together a small team of women to ski from the edge of Antarctica to the South Pole in time for the millennium. (The book is a bit old now.) The biggest challenge, it would seem, was getting the funding in place to make such an expedition possible.

Reading her day-by-day account of the journey itself was my main draw to this book. What would it be like to live in that kind of extreme environment for two months? How would a group of women cope with the repetitive nature of that lifestyle, living in a single tent, trudging over the ice day after day hauling a heavy sledge?

It certainly wasn't problem-free, from a three week weather delay before they could even fly to Antarctica, to a range of physical ailments from a broken tooth to arm, back and leg injuries.

For me, I can't imagine spending that length of time without seeing a tree or an animal anywhere. The lack of landscape in the middle of Antarctica might very well drive me to despair. Two months of constant travel I could probably cope with, but the feeling that every day's surroundings would be almost identical would be very disheartening. (Two months hanging out around the edge of Antarctica watching the penguins and checking out the icebergs, on the other hand, would be awesome!)

The lure of the 'big trip' ebbs and flows with me. Sometimes I love the idea of taking some time out from the modern world and going on a long, simple journey in nature. Whether it's a long-distance hike, cross-country skiing, or maybe even a dog sled! Other times, I think I'd get bored and impatient with the routine of such an expeditions. Eat, move, sleep. Repeat. I think there would at least have to be some variety in the landscape to keep me moving on.

I guess the only way to find out for sure is to give it a try. It won't happen this year, but hopefully someday I'll manage to find out whether I'm a long-distance wanderer or not.

Meanwhile, it was a bit of an eye-opener to read Caroline Hamilton's book. It left me wondering what she has been doing since, because she didn't seem like these trips got the goal-oriented bug out of her system. Instead, I suspect she has taken on other grand plans.

I noted recently that there are plans underway for a group of 8 women from various Commonwealth nations to ski to the South Pole. After reading this book, the think I that worries me most about that upcoming expedition is how the personal relationships will hold up. Eight women from eight different countries and cultures, who will have to live in very close quarters, and trust one another with their lives. Sure it will be a physical challenge, but I think the real issues will surround these women and how they interact.

1 comment:

Surya said...

I am one of the women on the Commonwealth Expedition you heard about. We are wondering too - we get along quite well and all believe in the person and it has been amazing how we have been able to bond. But watch out for the trip at the end of 2K9 -

Kim (Jamaica)