eteorologist from Birchington-on-Sea traversed 1,084 miles across icy continent alone, without using machines or kites. Just when I thought this incredible woman could not achieve much more, she pushes the limits of human endeavour beyond comprehension, with her latest achievement of endurance.
34-year-old Felicity Aston, from Birchington-on-Sea in northeast Kent is no stranger to adventure, but her latest solo expedition takes her into the record books. Felicity has become the first woman to cross the continent of Antarctica alone. She made the 1,744km (1,084 miles) crossing, under human power on Telemark skis, dragging 85kg of supplies, whilst enduring temperatures of -30C (-22F) and 24 hour Antarctica summer daylight.
This triumph is not only for Felicity, but also for technology and social media. The British adventurer, Meteorologist, travel writer and motivational speaker has been communicating via Twitter since 2008, sucking a global audience into her adventures, including myself.
Supported by Kaspersky Labs, the expedition could be followed live via an interactive map on a dedicated website, Twitter, Facebook and a YouTube channel.
I've been fascinated to learn about the trials and tribulations involved in such a mammoth expedition. The methodical checking, weighing and packing of every item (including which vitamins to carry) and a functional powerhouse breakfast, which neither of us favours – porridge.
Travelling to the start point and the farthest reaches of our planet, were not without issue for Felicity and her support team. With only a few days to go, there were severe weather warnings and the plane due to fly them from Chile to Antarctica was damaged. This resulted in a delay of 10 days, which proved fortunate, as it allowed sufficient time for Felicity to recover from the flu.
The expedition started at the Leverett Glacier on the 25th November, with Felicity sending a very poignant tweet.
For the next 59 days, every emotion came through her communications. From the frustration and emotional lows of losing her equipment, and coping with impassable terrain and treacherous weather conditions, to the “externally” laughable situations of Felicity enduring her porridge for breakfast every morning and the “frozen knickers” incident, during a brief washing period.
Christmas Day was guaranteed to be white and was celebrated with the gift of Jelly Babies, from Birchingham Primary School. New Year’s Day was celebrated in a similar fashion – it was still white, with the exception of some welcome guests, as six kiters passed her by, on their way to the pole.
Travelling across the Transantarctic Mountains to the South Pole, venturing across the Polar Plateau to the opposite coast of the continent and finishing at Hercules Inlet at the Ronne Ice Shelf, Felicity finished her journey on the 22nd January, setting a new world record.
In a somewhat emotional video recording, she said "It's been the most amazing day. It's all a little overwhelming. I don't really feel prepared for it. It feels amazing to be finished. And yet overwhelmingly sad that it's over at the same time. I can't quite believe that I'm here, that I've crossed Antarctica." The first person she wished to share the news with, was her mum.
Felicitiy celebrated her victory with a long hot shower and a hearty breakfast... anything but porridge.
Guinness World Records have stated:
"it could not recognise her achievement as a genuinely "solo" mission, because she had two stops to resupply”. But confirmed, "it had no other records of anyone crossing alone without assistance of kite or machine".
What remains? She hopes, will be a message about perseverance:
"If you can just find a way to keep going, either metaphorically or literally, whether you're running a marathon, facing financial problems, have bad news to deliver or it's tough at work or whatever,. If you can just find a way to keep going, then you will discover that you have potential within yourself, that you never realised," she said.
"Keeping going is the important thing, persevering, no matter how messy that gets. I mean, for me, sometimes I will be sitting in my tent in the morning bawling my eyes out, having tantrums. It’s not been pretty. But I've kept going, and that is the important thing, because at some point in the future you'll look back and just be amazed at how far you've come."
Aston, whose journey helped raise money for monuments to the 29 Britons killed in Antarctica since Scott, reached her goal on the Ronne Ice Shelf, a spot within a small plane.
As an Ambassador of the British Antarctic Monument Trust Felicity has been raising
funds for this fitting charity.
The Trust was to set up to commemorate those who have explored Antarctica especially those who did not return. The Trust has raised money to install a memorial in St Paul's Cathedral. A circular disk of Welsh slate with the map of Antarctica set in marble inset has the inscription "To those who lost their lives in Antarctica in pursuit of science to benefit us all."
The Trust has also created a two part monument. The Northern sculpture has been erected outside the Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge. Money is now required to commission the Southern part of the sculpture to be erected in the Falklands - gateway to the Antarctic. to commemorate those killed in Antarctica while in pursuit of science.