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Explorers Ann Bancroft and Liv Arnesen Call in from Their Trek Across Antarctica

Aired January 1, 2001 - 2:24 p.m. ET


LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: For the past month, if you have been following us, we've been following the progress of two women as they've tried to cross a different vast wilderness: Antarctica.

CNN's Daryn Kagan, who is personally involved in this story, joins us once again because she's in contact with the explorers.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Lou, not so personally that I would put on all that equipment and head to Antarctica, but I have been following the story since before Ann Bancroft and Liv Arnesen tried to take on this incredible journey. Once again, an American woman and a Norwegian woman trying to, by foot, become the first two women to make their way across Antarctica.

I think, if everything is working, we have Ann and Liv on the phone with us, once again, calling from Antarctica.

Ann and Liv, happy new year!

ANN BANCROFT: Happy new year to you.

LIV ARNESEN: Happy new year.

KAGAN: It is great to hear your voices, ladies. Tell us, how do you ring in the new millennium, the real new millennium from the bottom of the world?

BANCROFT: I'm glad you recognized it as the real millennium. Last night, we came in after a long day of sailing, and about eight hours actually. And cooked up a dinner and just as usual. This time we had to get out the libation, just to do a little toast.

KAGAN: Are you telling me that you packed campaign on those sleds?

BANCROFT: No. Champagne freezes so we went with 100 proof scotch.

KAGAN: Good for you, a great way to ring in the new year.

Now, as I understand it, I was checking out your Web site, and we will tell folks once again in a moment how they can do that, but from your Web site, I understand that the last year of 2000 was very good for you in terms of wind.

BANCROFT: Yeah. We've had a good last four days or so, particularly today. We just came in from 9 1/2 hours of sailing, and mostly a whiteout with very high snow drift called sustigi (ph). We were able to log close to 44 miles, and that always feels good at the end of those long hours.

KAGAN: That is excellent. I know we talked to you last time about sailing, and some people understood it some people didn't. Once again,. explain to our viewers how you're sailing across the ice across Antarctica.

ARNESEN: A sail attached to a harness, the lines, there are two different sails and one is rectangular, and the size is about 15 square meter and 11 square meter. The last three or four days, we have been sailing a three-sided sail, with really long lines, it is about 8 meters, and really power. We don't have very strong winds. We have only two-four meters a second. We consider it...

KAGAN: Go ahead.

ARNESEN: And we sail like we sail like a sail boat, you can go up with the wind, and also go with the wind. So we are -- with have a -- a bar that we hold with our hands so we can steer the sail.

KAGAN: Our viewers right now are seeing pictures of you on your skis, pulling your sleds, which I understand weigh about 250 pounds a piece, and then you attach sails to that, and basically hold-on, and steer, and cover as much ground as you can.

ARNESEN: Yes, that is right.

KAGAN: That's why the wind is so key for trying to achieve your goals?

BANCROFT: The route that we chose is exceedingly long. And that's exciting to us, but it is extremely dependent upon the sails. We're both pulling some days when we can't sail, and need that wind to push us those extra miles when we're not pulling.

Because, you know, when we put in a six-hour day, for instance, pulling, we will make about seven miles. And you just heard what we can do in about six hours of a soft wind, we'll make close to 30 miles. So we're very dependent upon the sails and the wind, and we're always beckoning Mother Nature to come forward and help us out a little.

KAGAN: How is your other equipment holding up? What's the best thing you're glad you did not leave home without?

BANCROFT: Well, our equipment actually is taking much more of a battering than we ever anticipated, and that is because the sailing is so demanding. It kind of looks easy and sounds easy, but it's really hard on our bodies. And everything inside the sled gets jostled around, so everything is wearing out. Even metal steel bottles are being rubbed close to a hole. So we just really didn't anticipate that. Because the last time the two of us were on Antarctica, going to the South Pole, we were pulling strictly our heavy sleds. And I'm just amazed at the amount of wear and tear on things. We repair almost every other night something, whether it be a sail or a -- well, actually, Liv has no tow-bars left on her sled. She is pulling with rope because the tow- bars, which were made out of titanium, were simply torqued away.

KAGAN: Wow, and then I know one piece of equipment that people are fascinated about, this phone call, how is that you are able to call us from the middle of Antarctica. It is not like there's a pay phone on the corner ice.

BANCROFT: Well, you know, every night the two of us just marvel at being able to call in our report and talk to you periodically. This is a satellite phone. It beams up a signal up into space, and then back down and connects us to you, or to anyone else. And it's the most amazing thing that -- it has really changed our lives. We've never been able to talk with anyone when we've out here before. So it's -- in most ways pretty wonderful.

KAGAN: We're showing right now the GPS system that we can check on your Web site. As we say good-bye to you ladies, give us an idea of your progress and how close you are to the South Pole. I know, originally, you had wanted to be there by Christmas Day. And, of course, that is not going to happen. We're at New Year's Day now. How many more days until you think you will be able to get to the South Pole?

ARNESEN: We have 345 miles left. And we hope to be there January 7th, but I think it is realistic that we will be there about 10th or the 12th.

KAGAN: We will keep tracking you. We continue to wish you well. We continue to wish you a lot of wind. And I think we are going to try to talk to you again on Wednesday afternoon. We'll make the date and we will look forward to your phone call.

ARNESEN: OK, thank you.

BANCROFT: Good talking to you.

KAGAN: Good talking to both of you. Once again, Ann Bancroft and Liv Arnesen making their way across Antarctica. It is incredible stuff.



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