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Bancroft, Arnesen Approach Halfway Point to Pole

Aired December 27, 2000 - 2:20 p.m. ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. And with that, I am getting the word that we actually have our women explorers from Antarctica on- line with us. This, of course, a story that we've been tracking here at CNN. If you have any doubt that CNN covers every corner of the planet, maybe this story will convince you. It is a CNN exclusive, tracking the progress of two explorers in their quest to become the first women to cross Antarctica on foot. Ann Bancroft and Liv Arnesen are almost halfway there, approaching the South Pole; and through the miracle of modern of technology and some cooperation of the weather, we are able to talk with them by phone.

Ann and Liv, hello.



KAGAN: How is it going?

BANCROFT: Well, it's going pretty well. We're in -- we are learning, I think, to be patient. And Mother Nature is in control of our schedule. But we're kind of -- as you just said, we're getting closer and closer to the Pole; and more and more eager to see it for our second time. And it's incredible to be here.

KAGAN: I should say a belated Merry Christmas to both of you. How was Christmas day for both of you?

BANCROFT: Christmas was pretty great. We woke up to an absolutely calm day with high hopes of hooking up to our harnesses the sails to make more miles than we would if we were pulling, and, of course, it was an extraordinarily gorgeous day by most people's standards. In the evening, at about 4:30, sudden gusts of a good, strong wind came up and the two of us just hopped to. By 5:00, we were sailing in a whiteout that is beyond words. I have been trying to figure out how to articulate to you, the beauty that we saw in this. It was just extraordinary.

We were going over to estruvie (ph), which are snow drifts that are quite large, and very hard, and very hard to see in a whiteout, so we did a lot of falling and, kind of, wild sailing, and then all of a sudden, the sun broke through the clouds and we saw snow coming through out of the sky. And the place looked like it had Christmas lights everywhere. It was, for the two of us, just a dream come true and what we had hoped for for Christmas Day.

KAGAN: Ann and Liv, when we talked to you last time, you also mentioned sailing, but we told our viewers that you are crossing Antarctica on foot. So explain to our viewers what sailing means when you are actually on skis, and carrying and dragging these very heavy sleds. How do you sail?

ARNESEN: We actually have -- this is Liv. We actually have a harness, and sails, that are fixed to the harness. And the sled is also fixed to a harness. So when we are sailing, the sailing is about two, three meters above us, and we can sail, use some kind a sailboat. So we can sail against the wind or the wind can be about 90 degrees to the other direction. It's a great help for us, and we actually need the wind to cover the mission (ph).

KAGAN: So you attach these sails to yourself, and you, kind of, just hold on?

ARNESEN: Yes. It's touched to the harness, and we have a streak that we can, kind of, steer the sail how we want.

KAGAN: And since that helps you cover so much ground, there is, probably, no better Christmas gift you could have received than big gusts of wind?


KAGAN: What was...

BANCROFT: Absolutely. That's exactly what we were hoping for.

KAGAN: And that's what you got.

BANCROFT: Just to give you an idea -- just to give you an idea of mileage; one day in about 6 or 7 hours, we could do 60 or 65 miles.

KAGAN: With a sail?

BANCROFT: With a sail. And pulling, yesterday, for 6 hours, we did 10 1/2 miles.

KAGAN: Makes a big, big difference. What do you have...

BANCROFT: So this route is totally, totally dependent upon sailing and pulling combined.

KAGAN: What does one have for Christmas dinner in the middle of Antarctica.

ARNESEN: We actually had the pasta bolognas, a kind of dried pasta with meat and different vegetables, and a little bit of a traditional drink called acueet (ph).

KAGAN: What is that?

ARNESEN: To celebrate Christmas. It's a kind of liquor that we drink here every Christmas in Norway.

KAGAN: It sounds tasty. Ann and Liv, I have with me, my partner, Lou Waters, and he has a question he wants to ask you.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: I have a silly question. I have the impression that it's the two of you on this expedition, but I see these photographs of you while we're talking with you. Who is taking the pictures?

BANCROFT: Probably some of those were taken when we first arrived on Antarctica. And so, we're -- you know, whenever we have an opportunity, we'll, we'll shove the camera at somebody. So when we arrive at the Pole, I mean, some of the folks at the South Pole station will do the same. So, it's really our only opportunity to get pictures of the two of us together.

Today, we did some filming for you that we'll send out at pole, and you'll see one sled going by.

WATERS: All right. Great. Yeah.

KAGAN: So you've been taking those pictures as you go along? You have a camera crew with you and you're going to try to send that via the phone lines, once you do get to the South Pole?

BANCROFT: Yes, we're going to try to get it to you as quickly as possible.

KAGAN: Have you seen any animals along the way?

BANCROFT: Actually, we did. I'll let Liv tell you about them.

ARNESEN: That was many weeks ago. We saw a bird, the first three weeks. And that's about, 220 kilometers from the coast. So that's quite sensational, I think. It must be kind of a -- (ph) I think.

KAGAN: But other than that, it's kind of lonely. Just you two women out there in the middle of the ice?

ARNESEN: Yes, there's only the two of us right now.

KAGAN: Give us the idea of your progress and making it the South Pole. We're anxious to see when you get there, and actually -- to see your shining faces live.

BANCROFT: Well, we've got about 480 miles left to get to the Pole. And to give you an idea of time, we have given ourselves about two more weeks in which to do that. We've got 14 days of food left. We can stretch that to take us to the 12th of January. But, again, it's, as I said in the beginning, it's all about wind; and we could be there in 10 days or we could be there in 15.

And we're feeling a bit of the pressure now because we, we also are -- are fully aware that we've got another 900 miles on the other side of the South Pole to experience, and get there before the summer season ends. So, we're -- we're under the gun, but not behind schedule in any way, but need to proceed every day and these quiet days make us a little bit punchy.

We're in good spirits, but we're constantly wondering if that's a breeze coming up behind us, and we're watching clouds that we can't read, because Antarctica doesn't seem to have a weather system that is very predictable. So, we're at the mercy of Mother Nature, which is in part why we came, and we're trying to be in the moment, and enjoy what we've got in front of us each and every day.

KAGAN: Well, one good benefit of these slower days: it gives you a chance to sit down and give us a call, and the opportunity to talk to you here on CNN is incredible, and we really do appreciate it. We'll continue to wish you well, and also continue to have you call in and we will be checking with you as often as possible. Once again, that is an Ann Bancroft and Liv Arnesen calling us, believe it or not, folks, from the middle of Antarctica, using modern technology, giving us a great opportunity to check in with them as they attempt this incredible feat: crossing Antarctica on foot.

They would be the first two women ever to do that. What you're looking at now: this is their web site. It's called -- yourexpedition is one word, and, in fact, if you see the map of Antarctica as it scrolls by, you'll see a red line. Ann and Liv have GPS with them, a satellite tracking system. So you can go online everyday and see how close they are to the South Pole, and how close they are to continuing and completing their journey. Thank you so much for that phone call.



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