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Swedish Woman Smashes Record for Skiing Solo to the South Pole

Skiing for 38 days, 23 hours and 5 minutes Johanna Davidsson beat the previous record by almost 10 hours

Johanna Davidsson training in Norway (Anna Lovehed)
smithsonian.com

On Christmas Eve, after skiing 38 days, 23 hours and 5 minutes, Sweden’s Johanna Davidsson arrived at the South Pole—smashing the previous record for the fastest female to ski from the edge of Antarctica to the pole without using kites or other aids by a whopping 10 hours, reports Alyssa Danigelis at Seeker.

The 33-year-old nurse had not planned to try to break the record, according Oliver Gee at The Local. In fact, in October she told Pythom.com that she expected the 702-mile trip would take her 50 days with an additional 20 days to kite back. But her training paid off and she moved faster than anticipated. “When you're having fun you don't notice the time, it was pure happiness that made me go so fast,” she tells Gee.

It’s not Davidsson’s first adventure. Pythom reports that she has explored mountains and glaciers in Norway and Sweden. She also crossed the Greenland Ice Sheet with her sister using kites. Antarctica, she says, was the logical next step. To train for the trip she skied pulling tires behind her and spent a week at Finnmarksvidda, a vast, icy plateau in far northern Norway, where she gave her equipment a test run. She also did a two-week trip crossing the remote and icy Svalbard Islands to prepare for the excursion.

According to Danigelis, Davidsson set out on November 15, pulling a 265-pound sled full of gear and supplies behind her. She made good time, eventually deciding that she wanted to make it to the Pole by Christmas. As she approached the end point, however, temperatures dropped and just 35 miles from her goal she was plunged into a whiteout.

Then things got worse.

“When I had eight kilometers left to the goal and record I had no strength left at all in my body, but my head still had a tiny will to continue,” she writes on her blog, Solo Sister. “And now I am soooooooo happy that I did!”

She finished her trip at the United State’s Amundsen-Scott Research Station which is at the geographic South Pole. “There have really been some ups and downs in this journey, but I was so glad to arrive here and not to have to ski anymore,” she tells Gee. “And there is a chef here who will cook whatever I want.”

Asked why she chose Antarctica versus skiing to the much closer North Pole, Davisson told Gee, “The South Pole is more interesting and not many people ski here. Plus there are no polar bear. And of course there's the fact that I don't believe in Santa Claus.”

Danigelis reports that Davidsson is not the first Swedish woman to reach the South Pole—in 2002 Tina Sjögren made it to the point traveling with her husband Tom. But Davidsson is the first to do it solo, unassisted and unsupported.

About Jason Daley

Jason Daley is a Madison, Wisconsin-based writer specializing in natural history, science, travel, and the environment. His work has appeared in Discover, Popular Science, Outside, Men’s Journal, and other magazines.

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