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Five Books About Women in Antarctica

3 min read

“You do not travel if you are afraid of the unknown. You travel for the unknown that reveals you in yourself,” said the 20th-century Swiss adventurer, sportswoman, travel writer and photographer Ella Maillart.

Maillart could very well have been speaking of the women who've dared to surmount all manner of obstacles —and, in some cases, social conventions—to explore the Antarctic.

Here's our mini-library of five inspirational books by or about women who've explored the Antarctic:

No Horizon Is So Far: Two Women and Their Historic Journey across Antarctica, by Liv Arneson and Ann Bancroft with Cheryl Dahle.

“No Horizon Is So Far” captures the fascinating experience ofAmericanAnn Bancroft (not to be confused with the Oscar-winning actor) and Norwegian Liv Arnesen's dramatic and, at times brutal, 1,700 mile journey across the Antarctic in the summer of 2000-2001 from the Norwegian sector of the Antarctic to McMurdo Station. For three months the two women endured temperatures as low as -35°F as they walked, skied and ice-sailed across the 7thContinent. Before they became world-class explorers, both women had worked as schoolteachers.

To get the book: Amazon.

My Antarctic Honeymoon: A Year at The Bottom of the World, by Jennie Darlington as told to author Jane McIlvainc

Jennie Darlington was a member of the Ronne 1947-48 expedition to Antarctica because she had just married Harry Darlington, who was a member of the privately-sponsored expedition team. The Antarctic trip turned out to be Jennie's honeymoon. She spent almost a year with her husband, only one other woman and 22 men near the South Pole. One of the most memorable lines from the book: “Antarctica to me is female. Fickle, changeable, unpredictable, her baseness disguised by a white make-up of pristine purity. Suddenly she strips off her gloves, rolls up her sleeves and with the ferocity of a wolf, springs at your throat." The other woman on the trip was American explorer Jackie Ronne, who was the first woman in the world to become a working member of an Antarctic expedition. The Ronne Ice Shelf is named after her. Darlington and Ronne were the first women to over-winter in the Antarctic.

To get the book: visit Amazon

Alone in Antarctica: The First Woman to Ski Solo Across the Southern Ice, by Felicity Aston 

In 2012 Ashton became the first woman—and, indeed, first person—to ski across the Antarctic land-mass—and she did it solo. Ashton, a physicist and meteorologist, who had worked as the senior meteorologist at Rothera Research off the Antarctic Peninsula from 2000 to 2003, endured two months without any human contact. Her journey began on 25 November 2011, at the Leverett Glacier and continued for 59 days and for a distance of 1,084 miles (1,744 kilometres). She did it, too, with the simple apparatus of cross-country skis, unlike her predecessors, Norwegian men who used either parasails or kites.

To get the book: visit Amazon

Chasing the Light: A Novel of Antarctica by Jesse Blackadder, based on the life of Ingrid Christensen

“Chasing the Light” is a fictionalized account based on the little-known experiences of Norwegian Ingrid Christensen, the first woman to ever set foot on Antarctica, and her extraordinary fight to get there. Christensen was the daughter of a ship owner who was one of the largest merchants in Sandefjord, Norway. Christensen's dream to explore the remote polar region was took root in her since childhood.

Christensen made four trips to the Antarctic with her husband on the ship Thorshavn in the 1930s, becoming the first woman to see Antarctica, the first to fly over it, and—most certainly—the first woman to land on the Antarctic mainland.Christensen visited Antarctica four times in the 1930s, once with her daughter.

Antarctic historian Hans Bogen described her: “Ingrid Dahl was exactly what in our time we call a kjekk og frisk jente (a Norwegian expression meaning a girl who could be at once one of the boys, then one of the girls, without losing her femininity or charm).”

Because so little is known about her, we're thankful for this fictional account that celebrates the spirit of Ingrid Christensen.

To get the book: Visit HarperCollins Publishers

Ice Diaries: An Antarctic Memoir, by Jean McNeil

Canadian-born book author Jean McNeil, who now lives in England, published “Ice Diaries,” in 2016. The book is one part travelogue and part memoir chronicling her year touring the Antarctic as a writer-in-residence with the British Antarctic survey. McNeil has also woven in tales from her other polar travels, layered with snippets of her difficult childhood in the Canadian Maritimes. 

McNeil won the Grand Prize at the 2016 Banff Mountain Book Competition Awards for “Ice Diaries.” One jury remember said: “This thought-provoking, timely and unusual book blends adventure travel writing and creative non-fiction in a book that's thoughtful and genuine. … She chronicles discoveries in the dramatic wilderness of ice, ocean, and the huge southern continent, but also in the more intimate wilderness of human relationships within a tiny and confined community of Antarctic travelers.”

To get the book: visit Amazon.

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