One hundred years ago Wednesday, Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen and his team were the first to reach the South Pole on skis. Veteran traveler Felicity Aston is nearing another first: becoming the first woman to ski across Antarctica alone.
Reached by NPR by satellite phone early Wednesday morning, Aston was about a degree and a half — 100 miles — from the South Pole. For Aston, a degree is about four days skiing. She's been skiing for 20 days. Overall, Aston will travel about 1,000 miles.
"If I unzipped my tent door and have a look outside, it really is the sort of classic Antarctic scenery — very white, right to the horizon, 360 degrees," she tells NPR's Steve Inskeep. "It's a pretty awesome place to be."
So why make the trek?
"Being out here is really to find out what it's like to be out here on my own and also a journey I guess to find my personal limits," Aston says.
And she has been tested on her journey, as evidenced by her frequent Twitter updates. Recently, she tweeted that Saturday "was the first day I didn't burst into tears at any point."
"The mental pressure of being out here alone has really taken me by quite by surprise," she says. "I expected it to be tough, and I did a lot of mental preparation, but when that plane dropped me off on the far side of Antarctica, it makes you feel extremely vulnerable."
For example, she says, there are many little things that can go wrong.
"My lighter stopped working the other day. And suddenly you realize that without lighters, I can't light my stove, I can't make food, I can't make water," she says. "All the time, you're sort of on the brink of disaster. But it's getting better. I'm getting used to it."
You can follow Aston's journey here.
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