Antarctic women rock!
The history of human endeavors in Antarctica is very brief compared to other epochs of exploration. Amundsen and Scott led the first men to the South Pole only back in 1911, less than a century ago. Since then, men have been bravely advancing the human presence down at the bottom of the world, making the first flight over the South Pole, building permanent structures allowing them to spend the entire winter in a dark frozen wasteland, carrying on that pioneering spirit inspired by those intrepid early visitors who triumphed and perished.
What about the women? According to Bill Spindler, our Title II inspector in 2005 and the foremost historian of Antarctic history and specifically South Pole lore, tells me that women came down to Pole for the very first time in 1969 when a group of 6 female scientists got to spend a few hours here on a boondoggle trip. It wasn't until 1974 that women actually came down here to work and Elena Marty and Jan Boyd were the first female contract workers at 90 degrees South latitude. And a real trailblazer is Michele Raney, the physician in 1979, who became the first woman ever to spend a winter at the South Pole.
Now, women are part of the fabric of life down here. We have just about every trade represented by the fairer sex. The men still outnumber the women by quite a large margin down here, but no one bats an eye at the sight of a woman slinging a heavy tool belt, driving a loader or sewing up a patient.
This winter, out of the crew of 54, we have 11 women. We are a cook, an Ice Cube scientist, an electrician, a greenhouse technician, three various materials specialists, a safety engineer, a facilities engineer, a work order scheduler and a PA.
Bill Spindler shared some fun stats with us recently. To date, there have been only 152 women to have ever spent a winter at the South Pole.
126 have wintered once
19 have wintered twice
6 have wintered three times
1 has wintered four times
About that last woman who is crazy enough to spend four winters down here…that would be me. It’s a dubious record to have I suppose, and I’m not sure if I should be too proud of it but what can I say except maybe I’ve found my niche. At least for the time being. For a great expose on what it’s like to spend a winter down here, see Neal’s post and then tell me how crazy you think I really am for doing 4 winters here.
So today, I give a cheer to my fellow female crew mates, each one a terrific person and a great addition to the club. We rock!
Ladies Spa Night - on floor L to R: Kari, Katie, Lynette. Standing L to R: Claire, Liz, Dainella, Leah, Terry, me, Laura and Francie.
For more infomation on South Pole history, please see Bill's wonderfully comprehensive website.