Check out the latest expedition video, which shows Felicity arriving at Hercules Inlet – and the end of her long journey. Felicity skied a total of 1744km over 59 days. She shot the video herself and the significance of the moment is apparent as her emotions take over.
When the plane finally landed on the 23rd of January to take Felicity back to civilisation, she was greeted by this banner, featuring the faces of her fans! A Facebook competition, run on the Kaspersky Lab Facebook page, invited users to enter for the chance to feature on the banner – and be amongst the first faces Felicity would see after 60 days of solitude.
Following a few days’ rest at Hilleberg, Felicity returned to Chile to enjoy the heat of the sun, hot showers and a comfy bed before she arrived in the UK today, 31st January.
Congratulations to Felicity and her team! She has now officially become the first woman to traverse the Antarctic alone. After 1744km and 59 days, she has reached Hercules Inlet on the Ronne Ice Shelf and completed her journey. Due to bad weather, she will be spending a final night alone on the ice before a plane takes her back to civilisation tomorrow – and the promise of red wine and hot shower!
I remember being 10 or 11 years old preparing to spend a weekend away from home. My
parents dropped me off at the dormitory where I would be staying with a group of girls but
I didn’t want them to leave. It was winter and the moon was already up even though it was
early. To comfort me my Mum said that if I missed her all I had to do was look up at the
moon or the stars and think that she was looking at exactly the same sky.
Of course, as soon as my parents left and I got to know the other girls, I didn’t give home
another thought – but several times over the years when I have been far from home I’ve
looked up at the night sky and been comforted by that same sentiment.
I think everyone gets homesick occasionally, no matter how old you are – you might call
it something different – but it is still homesickness of one kind or another . I was really
interested to learn that homesickness is often caused by a reaction to our new environment.
In Antarctica I am most likely to feel homesick when I am cold, hungry and uncomfortable
because images of home represent the exact opposite to all these discomforts – it
represents warmth, food, comfort, safety. This seems to make a lot of sense. When I feel
vulnerable I guess it is natural that I would long for a place I feel safe – for me, that would be
Somehow, understanding the logic behind an emotion, makes that emotion easier to deal
Hypothermia happens when the body gets too cold. As the core temperature drops – even by a fractional amount – the body begins shutting down, and if the cooling continues, it can be fatal. One of the first signs that someone may be slipping into hypothermia is that they start behaving strangely. They might become uncharacteristically quiet, wear a jacket they don’t normally need, be incoherent, or clumbsy in their movements. I have heard several stories of people with severe hypothermia believing that they are too hot and removing clothing even though their life may depend on doing the exact opposite.
What scares me about this, is that it is never the person affected who notices the changes in their behaviour. It is those travelling with them that detect the signs. During this expedition I will be alone and so there is nobody with me to pick up on the fact that I am behaving strangely or making inappropriate decisions. What happens if, through hypothermia, exhaustion or general disorientation, I can no longer rely on my own brain to make reasonable, considered choices? How will I know if I am making a decision for the right reasons?
I feel that this is one of the biggest differences between setting out on an expedition alone, rather than with a team. I have to make a conscious effort to examine every decision I make to reassure myself that I am remaining objective. Dr Pack has given me a system for analysing decisions I make by breaking down the process to reveal the driving emotions behind each choice made. This is called resilient thinking. For example, if one day I decide after 8 hours skiing to make a detour from my route that will, I believe, save me some time and distance I could analyse this choice by asking myself some questions. Why am I making this decision now? How am I feeling? Bored, scared, tired? Is this decision something I’ve been considering for a while or is it driven by the fact that I’m tired after 8 hours of skiing and changing my route would provide a welcome novelty to alleviate the monotony of the day? This kind of thinking can be applied to decisions big and small, and with some practise I hope it will become a quick and easy way to check up on myself.
With less than two weeks to go, Felicity is rapidly approaching the end of her remarkable journey. Changeable weather, chronic tiredness and cold extremities have challenged the last leg of the expedition but her determination continues to push her forward. She hopes to reach the coast within 9 days, at which point she will officially become the first woman to traverse Antarctica alone. Don’t forget to show your support via Twitter or Facebook and welcome her across the finish line!
By the end of the expedition I will have spent about 60-70 days on my own in the featureless landscape of Antarctica. Coping with the mental stress of being alone for this length of time and dealing with the monotony of both my daily routine and the landscape I am skiing across is key to the success of the expedition. It also presents an opportunity to learn something about the mental processes that enable self-discipline, perseverance, motivation and, ultimately, achievement when under pressure.
In preparation for the expedition, I worked with Dr Stephen Pack, a Senior Lecturer / Researcher at the University of Hertfordshire specializing in Sport and Exercise Psychology. He is an expert in the use of psychological skills by sport performers, the implementation of psychological skills training, and the use of counselling skills in sport and exercise psychology. Dr Pack taught me some tools and techniques that helped her prepare for, and process, the mental rigours of the expedition and the months of isolation in a demanding environment.
Using language as an indicator of mental process, Dr Pack is looking closely at the podcasts recorded during my expedition to chart my mental journey through my use of language. Combined with pre and post expedition sessions, he hopes to use this information to contribute to his main research interest which lies in perceptions of stress and coping, and the link between physical activity and psychological well-being, particularly in the natural environment. Ultimately it is hoped that my journey might provide some insight into the influence of physical activity on mental well-being and on what motivates individuals to achieve.
Following two days of rest at the South Pole Station, Felicity continued her journey on the 23rd of December. Christmas Eve brought strong winds which she had to battle head-on all day. Although the weather was still changeable on Christmas Day itself, the sunshine lifted her spirits and made the challenge that bit more manageable. Felicity was also able to enjoy a Christmas Day treat of Jellybabies thanks to Birchington Primary School in Kent!
Over the following few days, Felicity made great progress and appreciated the warmth that skiing directly towards the sun brought. Towards the end of December, the bad weather caught up with her and the rough ground and massive sastrugi (surface irregularities formed by wind erosion) made for a difficult New Year!
As one can well imagine, the solitude and physical exertion gradually became more of a challenge as Felicity approached her 6th week on the ice, although clear weather and beautiful views of the Thiel Mountains in the distance helped to push her forward.
Over the past number of days, Felicity has left the mountain views and re-entered a vast and empty 360 degree horizon. Keep up the good work!
It is confusing that there are several different South Poles (the magnetic south pole, the geomagnetic south pole, the southern pole of inaccessibility etc) but the one most commonly referred to as THE south pole, is the Geographic South Pole. This is the southernmost point on the globe, the point around which the Earth spins and the place first reached by Scott and Amundsen 100 years ago. Today, it is also the site of one of the largest research stations in Antarctica. The Amundsen-Scott station (known as ‘Pole’) is an American-run station where some 250 people live and work during the Antarctic summer season. The two-story station is raised on stilts above the snow and is a few hundred yards from the South Pole.
In front of the Amundsen-Scott station is a silver sphere on a red and white striped barbers pole a few feet high, surrounded by the flags of the 14 nations that signed the original Antarctic Treaty in 1957 – but to make matters regarding all the different south poles even more confusing, this is only a ‘ceremonial’ south pole. The actual location of 90S is a short distance away, marked by a stake and a signboard. The stake is topped by an ornamental pin-head which is created by the staff that have spent the winter at the nearby research station and which changes each year. This second pole is necessary because although the ceremonial silver sphere appears to be stationary, it is actually sitting on the Antarctic plateau, a thick cap of ice that is slowly moving out towards the sea. So, in fact, the silver sphere moves northward every year. The second marker is repositioned annually over the actual point of 90S.
This will be my third arrival at the South Pole but each time it has been under very different circumstances and had a totally different significance. It still feels very bizarre to be standing at the very bottom of our planet.
After nearly a month of skiing through both storms and sunshine, Felicity finally arrived at the geographic South Pole earlier this week. Although not her final destination, getting to this point is still a personal achievement and will allow her to stock up on much-needed supplies and rest before the next leg of her long journey.