Port Lockroy Blog #13: International Women’s Day 2023
Stories from the era of Amundsen, Scott and Shackleton tend to only mention women in passing, if at all. Even at Port Lockroy, the first female team member wasn’t until 2001. Things have come a long way in a short space of time to make our all-female team this year possible.
So, for International Women’s Day, we wanted to highlight some inspiring women who have played – and are playing – an important role in the polar regions.
Antarctica is no longer just the domain of men (Credit: Clare Ballantyne)
Polar books by female authors we’ve read in Antarctica
A Woman in the Polar Night by Christiane Ritter
In her book, Christiane describes her year-long experience living in a remote cabin in the Arctic in the 1930s with her husband and a friend. The whole team read the book whilst on base (some of us have even read it twice), and felt moved by Christiane’s captivating descriptions. Her beautiful writing has inspired us to look at our surroundings differently and to appreciate the subtle changes in the landscape: the pastel colours of the snow and sky in the evening; the light reflecting on the sea; the stars we can finally see now that darkness has returned. Her artistic take on life in the polar regions contrasts with the scientific, often somewhat monochrome descriptions by many others. Her words have undoubtedly inspired many to undertake their own polar adventures.
Hearts in the Ice by Sunniva Sorby and Hilde Fålun Strøm
Sunniva and Hilde spent a year living in a remote cabin in Svalbard in 2019, becoming the first women to overwinter in Svalbard. They used their time there to undertake citizen science projects for researchers studying climate change. They wrote Hearts in the Ice about their adventures, and continue to use their experience to promote the need for change to protect the polar regions into the future. We were lucky enough to meet Sunniva and Hilde whilst at Port Lockroy and all felt inspired by their passion and determination to achieve positive change.
The team with Hilde and Sunniva on MS Fridtjof Nansen (Credit: Hilde Fålun Strøm)
Female Polar Adventurers
Since we arrived at Port Lockroy, Preet Chandi, known online as Polar Preet, set a record for the longest-ever solo, unsupported polar expedition in her quest to cross Antarctica. Preet was also the first woman of colour to ski to the South Pole.
Following in the footsteps of the likes of Felicity Aston and our own Sophie Montagne (Head of Ops at UKAHT and part of the Ice Maiden Expedition) Preet is one of a small but intrepid group demonstrating that women can achieve incredible feats in the polar regions.
Anyone that has followed Preet’s journey towards this achievement will know about the vast amount of training and preparation that was required, which she did whilst maintaining her day job (even commuting to work on foot, dragging two car tyres behind her!). Her dedication towards achieving this highly impressive goal, whilst breaking down barriers, is a source of inspiration to us and many others.
Women we’ve met in Antarctica
We’ve met lots of incredible, interesting people whilst at Port Lockroy. The community that works on the expedition ships and yachts that visit the base have some fascinating stories and impressive work histories. Alongside working on ships, they are scientists, artists, photographers, lawyers, medics and outdoor guides.
It’s been great to see that women play a central role in this community. Although the role of expedition leader continues to be male-dominated, we’ve met several tremendous female expedition leaders and have been very grateful for their support, as well as the support of their male colleagues.
Their job is challenging, with the responsibility of ensuring everyone stays safe whilst experiencing the wonders of the Antarctic. Despite working long hours, often for months on end without time off, their love for Antarctica means they continue to show up with the enthusiasm and genuine passion for their job, which we have felt inspired by all season.
The team at Port Lockroy (Credit: Lucy Bruzzone)
The Port Lockroy Team
I feel exceptionally lucky to be part of such a great team of women this year, and that we get on so well (which we’re asked about often!). We’ve completed a polar plunge in the Southern Ocean, camped out for a night to test our emergency equipment, battled 95km/h winds to save windows on Bransfield House and dug many, many tons of snow together.
The team camping for a night at Port Lockroy! (Credit: Natalie Corbett)
Here’s to Lucy, Natalie and Clare for being wonderful teammates – you have made our time at Port Lockroy so brilliant and I feel inspired by you all.
Mairi Hilton, General Assistant, Wildlife Monitor, Port Lockroy