Christmas came early for Swedish adventurer Johanna Davidsson this year. On December 24, she arrived at the South Pole in 38 days, 23 hours, and 5 minutes, setting a new women's world record for skiing there the fastest from the coast. She beat the previous record by nearly 10 hours.
The funny thing is that Davidsson wasn't trying to break the record when she started out. She just wanted to reach the pole, and become the first Swedish woman to get there alone. No sails, no kites, either. "The goal is the South Pole and I will do the longest unassisted solo expedition to reach this dream of mine," she wrote on her Solo Sister website.
Originally Davidsson thought the endeavor would take 50 days, she told Pythom.com in October. But she had trained hard, including a solo trip across the white plains of Finnmarksvidda in Norway. The temperature felt like it dropped to around -22 degrees Fahrenheit, she wrote in a blog post. That was below the lowest reading on her thermometer.
On November 15, she put on a pair of skis at Hercules Inlet on the coast of Antarctica, and began hauling a sled weighing about 265 pounds. The sun emerged briefly, and Davidsson made good time. However, conditions weren't always on her side. She encountered colder temperatures and a nasty whiteout with only about 35 miles left to go to the South Pole.
"I have been pushing myself to get there for Christmas," she wrote on her blog. "My mind is made up."
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After arriving at the Geographic South Pole on December 24, Davidsson celebrated at Amundsen–Scott Station with well-earned bubbly, a chef-prepared meal, and a satellite phone call to her family.
The previous record was set in 2006 by British skier Hannah McKeand, who greeted Davidsson at the South Pole and gave her a hug. "She is the camp manager for this place," Davidsson explained online. "She was actually happy that I did it so no hard feelings." Once the Swedish skier has rested, she will be using kites, a ski sail and special skis for her return to the coast.
As Pythom.com noted, Davidsson wasn't the first Swedish woman to get to the South Pole. Tina Sjögren made it there in early 2002 with her husband, Tom. The two of them were unassisted, but they arrived at the pole together after skiing for two months. Tom Sjögren, who now heads up the site Adventure Stats, officially verified Davidsson's record this month. Everything comes full circle.
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