A Twizel woman who was part of an all-female expedition to ski to the South Pole has just returned home - mission accomplished.
Kylie Wakelin only got the call to go on the expedition in October but says it was a real adventure that also brought with it some unexpected pay-offs.
While Wakelin may be New Zealand’s first woman to ski to the South Pole she says she never set out to collect lofty titles.
“Really for me the journey was what it was all about and the relationship I've formed with the girls has been far more moving and significant for me than I thought it would be” she said.
Kylie Wakelin arrived at Christchurch airport yesterday afternoon, Friday 15 January 2010
When the initial squad of 16 began training in Norway last February it highlighted the huge task ahead.
Once they were underway the group of 8 quickly became 7 - one member was forced to pull out due to frost bite.
Wakelin said “That was a huge wakeup call for us and it was like this is serious stuff, you can't relent for 10 minutes because it's so cold” she said.
The dangers were also very real for Wakelin’s anxious mum Maye Dunn.
“It was a worry for a start but as she got into it we weren't quite so worried” she said.
Wakelin says while she was on the ice she dreamed of relaxing beach holidays and marmite on toast but she's already planning her next Arctic adventure
The team at the South Pole
Each woman has towed an 80-kilogram sled loaded with food, fuel and equipment for the past 39 days - skiing for six to 10 hours a day - to travel nearly 900 kilometres to the pole and mark the 60th anniversary of the Commonwealth.
The group was airlifted from the pole back to their starting point, a commercial expedition base at Patriot Hills, before flying back to London via Chile.
The women will soon have their first showers since November 12, with each rationed to one baby-wipe tissue a day for hygiene.
Wakelin stepped in as New Zealand's representative in early October after the expedition's British leader, Felicity Aston, axed a New Zealand Army doctor, Major Charmaine Tate, 33.
Tate had trained for the expedition with the international team in Norway and New Zealand.
Aston said at the time that the "team dynamics weren't quite right, so I decided to change the personnel before the team got anywhere near the Ice".
Wakelin was selected after spending 16 years running Glacier Explorers' boat trips in the small lake at the foot of the Tasman Glacier and taking part in ski-touring and mountaineering expeditions, as well as working for the British Antarctic Survey.
Christchurch was an appropriate place for Kylie to arrive after her historic expedition.
Explorers associated with both Christchurch and Antarctica include Robert Falcon Scott who left from the port of Lyttelton to again try to reach the South Pole after his earlier attempt had failed. Terra Nova returned to the port in 1913 bringing news of the death of Scott and his four companions on their way back from the South Pole.
Norwegian explorer, Roald Amundsen was the first to reach the South Pole in 1911 and later gave a popular public lecture in Christchurch. In gratitude to the Canterbury Museum for their help, he donated the penknife used to cut the flagstaff marking the South Pole; and Irishman Ernest Shackleton who first travelled to Antarctica with Scott but was invalided out and later tried again with his own expedition on Nimrod.
For people bought up in Christchurch during the 50s and 60s – a period of intense activity in the Antarctic – ‘Operation Deep Freeze’ and the early morning sound of DC3s heading ‘to the ice’ are part of our imbedded personal history and its seems highly appropriate the International Antarctic Centre should be sited there.
Monika Kristensen, the Norwegian glaciologist passed through Christchurch in 1986/87 en route to Antarctica with her dog team.
For me, I left Christchurch for Antarctica in October 1969 where I spent 13 months at the remote Vanda Station in the Wright Dry Valley. So Christchurch as a gate way to Antarctica has an emotional attachment for many of us who have spent time in Antarctica.
Congratulations Kylie for a wonderful achievement. We are immensely proud of you.