Best of ExplorersWeb 2004 Awards: South Pole - Fiona and Rosie

Posted: Dec 24, 2004 05:00 am EST

ExplorersWeb has been awarded best of adventure by National Geographic and best of the web by Forbes magazine. What is then the Best of ExplorersWeb?

We have covered hundreds of expeditions in 2004. It's difficult to choose the best, as they all contributed in their own way, sharing their story - their very soul in fact - with us and the world.

And yet, there are those who continue to linger in our minds long after their final debrief. We have chosen 8 expeditions who have contributed in an extraordinary way to the Spirit of Adventure in the year of 2004.

Today number 8: Fiona and Rosie

Fiona Thornewill made history when she reached the South Pole January 11, 2004 after 41 days, 8 hours, and 14 minutes.

Unsupported (no resupplies and no pulling aid), the Hercules Inlet Route (the edge of mainland Antarctica) had only been done 7 times before. The fastest being Liv Arnesens 50 days in 1994.

Out of the seven times, only two had been by women, and only one by a solo woman. Liv Arnesen stood as the crown queen of Antarctica for ten years, until Fiona shattered her record performance by an astonishing 8 days.

In fact, even with the aid of re-supplies along the trek, this classic South Pole route is expected to take around 60 days. The fastest supported expedition was a Japanese Group in 1994 (same year as Liv) who made it in 38 days with skidoo-support, and Borge Ousland's parasail crossing (34 days to the pole).

Rosie - "The Pole. Yes, but under very different circumstances from those expected."

Close behind Fiona was Rosie Stancer. Rosie arrived SP January 13, 2004 at 16:20hrs GMT - after 43 days and 20 hours. The petite, 45 year old woman had made the trip solo, unsupported, 6 days earlier than Liv Arnesen, and only 2 days shy of Fiona Thornewill.

When Rosie reached the pole, she found Scott's famous words, printed on a large board: "The Pole. Yes, but under very different circumstances from those expected." He had been beaten to the pole by Amundsen. Rosie in turn would not reach her original dream to be the first British woman to trek solo to the South Pole.

Finishing is succeeding - simple as that

Yet both women stressed that their missions were personal, and hard enough, without the need to compete with each other for a day or two between them. Both women traveled without the knowledge of each other's positions.

"I knew this would end up being topical" Fiona said: "But I do not view this as a race: This challenge is about 'me.' It's about 'me' and the 'environment.' It is not about racing Rosie. I expect the press will make a race of it when they wake up to what we're doing - but I will not be pressured into racing anyone - Finishing is succeeding - simple as that." Rosie in turn, was among the first to send her congratulations to Fiona.

But the drama wasn't over.

Mr park

Next Park Young-seok unsupported Korean team of 5 arrived the South Pole at 44 days. Mr Park is among the few climbers to summit all 14, 8000ers. Park disputed Fiona's starting point shortly after, but her Argos beacon proved her right.

Fiona and Rosie ended up celebrating a double British record at the Geographic South Pole. "Weve discovered were soul mates; we share the same philosophies on life and have a lot of respect for one another," were their final words.

Fiona helped Rosie pack up her tent and saw her off. The Koreans also flew back to Patriot Hills on the same plane with Rosie, while Fiona waited the arrival of her husband at the Pole.

Breaking both men's and women's records

Scott, Amundsen and Shackelton are remembered equally today, disregarding their initial positions. Amundsen was first, but Scott and Shackelton offered human drama. Beyond their first's, Liv, Fiona and Rosie are proof that the world's pioneering ladies of adventure are far stronger than we had ever imagined.

We saw the trend already in 2003 - the female mountaineers Edurne Pasaban's and Nives Meroi's fast hattricks on the world's eighthousanders, Maud Fontenoy's first west to east Atlantic ocean row, Raphaela's first solo surf across the Pacific and Tanya's breaking the record for both the men's and women's Freediving in the Variable Weight category.

In fact, with this year's record-breaking performance by Fiona and Rosie, almost one hundred years after (Norwegian and British) Amundsen, Shackelton and Scott - three solo, unsupported ladies (Norwegian and British!) have beaten not each other - but the men to the South Pole!

Fiona and Rosie stay in our memory for their record-breaking performance and respect for each other.

By their performace, the awarded expeditions have proved themselves outstanding in all or most of the following:

- Courage

- Determination

- Persistence

- Self reliance

- Ingenuity

- Pioneering

- Idealism

- Comradeship

- Compassion

- Respect towards competition

- Honesty

An additional 4 expeditions have recieved a special mention award:

Edurne Pasaban and Juanito Oiarzabal - for their courage and honesty.

Henk De Velde - for his battle to the bitter end.

Pavel Rezvoy - for his power of will and refusal to retire.

Nawang Sherpa - for his determination and ground-breaking performance.

More about Rosie and Fiona

Rosie shot over a pic of herself standing by the famous board at the South Pole station. The board holds the inscription of Amundsen's and Scott's words upon their reaching the Pole. This board has a special meaning to Rosie: Her own grandfather had been set to accompany Sir Robert Falcon Scott on his ill-fated expedition to the South Pole. At the last minute, however, he was deemed too tall to fit in the tent, and was turned down. Her husbands grandfather was Sir James Wordie, the pioneering explorer of the Arctic region and the geologist on Sir Ernest Shackletons 1914 Transantarctic Expedition.

Rosie made her first polar trip to the North Pole in 1997, in a guided all women relay expedition. In 1999, Rosie was a member of the first British all-woman team to reach the South Pole. The team skied the entire trek without guides this time, but received a resupply along the way.

Along with Catherine Hartley, Fiona was one of the two first British women to ski to both poles and, with husband Mike, also the first married couple to reach both poles (all expeditions with air support).

Fiona's first husband Bill, was killed in a road accident. He was only 26 and it was devastating to her: "Back then, I had a choice; to be negative or do something positive. Bill was cheated of his life and so I felt I owed it to him to make the most of mine," Fiona told ExWeb.

But her record-breaking trek almost didn't happen. Fiona lacked funds to the very end. In a late interview, just before departure deadline, Fiona told Explorersweb: "The truth is; we're struggling right now - to find the last funding and it's stealing valuable preparation time. But we will be there. We are positive people."

Images top to bottom:

1. Rosie and Fiona at the South Pole

2. South Pole trek

3. Rosie and Fiona at their separate arrival to the South Pole

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