Did you know that the first woman who skied to the South Pole was Norwegian?

Liv Arnesen from Bærum made international headlines when – as the first woman ever – she skied alone to the South Pole without any support or supplies from the outside world. Arnesen set out from Hercules Inlet at the southern end of the Weddell Sea 5 November 1994. She reached the South Pole fifty days later, on Christmas Eve of the same year, after having skied 1200 km. She was picked up and flown out of the continent.
Liv Arnesen and Ann Bancroft at the South Pole in 2001Liv Arnesen and Ann Bancroft at the South Pole in 2001. Photo: yourexpedition.com

Several other Norwegian women have also left their mark on Antarctica. Caroline Mikkelsen, wife of the whaling captain Klarius Mikkelsen, was the first woman to step ashore onto Antarctica 20 February 1935.

Monica Kristensen Solås has participated in several research expeditions to Antarctica in her capacity as a glaciologist. The first was in 1980–81, when she was part of a British Antarctic expedition. In 1984–85 she participated in the Norwegian Polar Institute’s expedition with the Coast Guard ship K/V Andenes, and in 1986–87 she organised and led a dog-sled expedition that was meant to retrace Roald Amundsen’s route to the South Pole. The expedition was forced to turn back at 85°59'S.

In 1991–92, Kristensen Solås established the research station “Blåenga” in Coats Land, West Antarctica. This was during the first season of the Aurora programme, a three-year climate research project involving meteorology, glaciology and oceanography. The programme was to be carried out on Filchnerisen (the Filchner Ice Shelf), where no such studies had previously been done. During this season she also made her first attempt to find the tent Roald Amundsen had left at the South Pole in 1911. The idea was to exhibit the tent during the Winter Olympics in Lillehammer in 1994. Kristensen Solås failed to relocate the tent, but tried again in the 1993–94 season, when she led her next research expedition in the Antarctic. This attempt was also unsuccessful; the tent is believed to be buried under 15 metres of snow. At the end of December 1993 the expedition suffered a serious setback when its second-in-command Jostein Helgestad fell into a crevasse and perished. After this accident, the rest of the expedition was called off.

In the 2000–01 season, Liv Arnesen and the American Ann Bancroft crossed Antarctica on skis. The trip took 94 days and was 2747 km long.

Since 1984–85, many female researchers have participated in the various research expeditions to Antarctica, and so far, four Norwegian women have been on the overwintering team at the Norwegian research station Troll, in Dronning Maud Land. This coming winter, one of the six-member overwintering team at Troll will be a woman.