French adventurer faces new feat as head of Antarctic station
AFP - Sunday, November 23
CHAMONIX, France (AFP) - - Eight years after skiing across Antarctica alone, a French adventurer returns next month to the "white desert" as head of a scientific station with a mission to govern a team of 130 through the dark hours of winter.
In February 2000, Laurence de la Ferriere travelled on skis from the South Pole to Terre Adelie (French-administered Antarctica), an achievement no one since has repeated.
For 73 days, the petite athlete towed a 150-kilogramme (330-pound) sled nearly 3,000 kilometres (1,900 miles), facing average temperatures of -30 degrees C (-22 degrees F), violent winds and severe frostbite.
Ferriere, who was recently awarded the French Legion of Honour, will now become district chief of the Dumont d'Urville scientific research station in Terre Adelie, where France has appointed her for a 15-month mission.
"Deep down I had a very strong desire to return to Antarctica, but I had not allowed myself to go back simply to repeat something and risk ruining what I had already done," Ferriere, 51, told AFP at her home in the French Alpine town of Chamonix.
Born into the French nobility in Casablanca, Morocco, Ferriere will represent the French state and serve as a public officer with the right to detain suspects or conduct marriages within the team of technicians and scientists, one-third of them female.
Challenges for the base team are not only physical, but social. From March until November, the southern hemisphere's winter effectively cuts off Dumont d'Urville from all external communication and plunges it into permanent darkness for three months.
"The real challenge begins then. Repatriation is no longer possible. No matter what, it has to work," she said.
Winds across Antarctica can reach 300 kilometres per hour, making "stones fly" and rendering it impossible to step outdoors, which can be especially difficult for athletes such as Ferriere.
The French Antarctic team works in two buildings joined by a passage "and we don't have access anywhere else but these buildings," she said.
"This is why it interests me, because there is this micro-society in which you have to evolve," said Ferriere, who not only tackled Antarctica, but also holds the women's world record for altitude without oxygen from her mountaineering pursuits.
While she does not claim to know everything about the wilderness, she said she does know how to "integrate" herself into it.
She will now experience managing an isolated community amid such harsh conditions.
"Human beings, that's an immense question mark," she said, adding that she hopes to give back to the team what she learned during her solitary expeditions in "white hell or heaven".
Ferriere said she "can live in any condition, anywhere" after her "miraculous" survival in Antarctica, and has advice for those who dare expose themselves to the cold and isolated expanse.
"You cannot go to Antarctica saying 'I know everything, I will impose my way and I will succeed.' You really have to bare yourself, to free yourself of what you think you know," she said.
Recommend this article
Average (0 votes)
Sign in to recommend this article »
Most Recommended Stories »
Related Articles: Entertainment & Lifestyle
Historic Plymouth OKs building $488M movie studioAP - 2 hours 15 minutes ago
Fleet Foxes aim to be timeless with alternative brand of folkAFP - 2 hours 52 minutes ago
Morocco film festival award goes to Russia's "Wild Field"AFP - Sunday, November 23
Tenor's Met Opera feat: 2 major roles in a dayAP - Sunday, November 23
MTV holds its first African music awardsAP - Sunday, November 23
French adventurer Laurence de la Ferriere (pictured), who was recently awarded the French Legion of Honour, has been appointed as a district chief of the Dumont d'Urville scientific research station in Terre Adelie, for a 15-month mission.
Most Popular – Entertainment
Merkel warns 2009 will be 'year of bad news' for economy
Over 200 narwhal trapped in Canadian ice
New strain of deadly Ebola virus discovered
Wall Street plunges again as panic spreads
Aussie mayor wins sexist 'award' for inviting ugly women to town
View Complete List »