Woman Hikes From Siberia To Australia: Faces Gunmen, Snakes

Swiss explorer Sarah Marquis recounted her solo three-year adventure walking 10,000 miles through wild areas. Continue reading →

A Swiss explorer spent three wild years walking 10,000 miles from Siberia to Australia - by herself.

She hauled nearly 70 pounds of gear on the journey, which sent her directly into the path of wild animals, extreme weather and drug dealers armed with automatic weapons.

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The fact that Swiss explorer Sarah Marquis succeeded in her long, wild trek seems remarkable given the number of close calls she encountered along the way.

Marquis was born an adventurer. "Even when I was a little girl, I was always taking off, sleeping in a cave with my dog overnight," she told espnW's Laura Marcinek recently. As a teenager she crossed the Central Anatolia Region in Turkey on horseback despite not knowing how to ride, her website says.

Her 10,000-mile, 1,000-day journey required extensive preparation. She spent two years working her way up to it mentally and physically, gradually increasing the weight she could comfortably carry on her back until her pack reached 66 pounds. Her distances on the trail got longer and longer as well, she told espnW.

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Early on, a tooth infection prompted evacuation from the Gobi Desert. When she resumed her trek, Marquis faced negative 31 degrees Fahrenheit temperatures and deadly blizzards. Drunken horsemen wreaked havoc on her campsite in Mongolia. She shared the Australian wilderness with crocodiles, venomous snakes and buffaloes. Her tent got wrecked repeatedly by sandstorms, hail and mudslides.

In the Laos jungle, weakened by dengue fever, Marquis made the mistake of pitching her tent near a pond. Usually she avoided that because water tends to attract snakes, and they in turn attract wild animals.

This time, the pond was being used by drug dealers. The armed men tried to lift her tent up while she was still in it. She got out, yelled, and one man shot his gun into the air, she recounted to Marcinek.

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That was the only moment Marquis considered hitting the red button on her tracking device -- not to get help, but because she wanted her body to be found. She got out alive by using her handy dictionary and staying calm for several hours.

"I never carry any firearm," Marquis told espnW. For her, carrying one would be an illusion of security. "If you're too secure, then you won't do the right thing regarding your own safety," she added.

That perspective reminded me of Isabella Bird, an intrepid British explorer who traveled solo through the Rocky Mountains in the early 1870s. It truly was the Wild West.

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"I once gave an unwary promise that I would not travel alone in Colorado unarmed," Bird wrote in her book "A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains." "I left Estes Park with a Sharp's revolver loaded with ball cartridge in my pocket, which has been the plague of my life." The revolver caught on her riding dress, children thought it's a toy, and the one time she slept with it under her pillow, Bird awoke the next day regretting her fear.

Last June, a helicopter dropped off Marquis in the wild, sparsely populated Kimberley region of Western Australia. Her National Geographic expedition involved walking 500 miles and surviving off the land for three months.

Her experiences reminded me at times of Robyn Davidson's 1,700-mile journey with camels across the western Australia desert in 1977, detailed in her book "Tracks." Over the past two decades, Marquis has essentially walked the world on foot, covering more than 10,000 miles.

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I've noticed that one of first the questions often posed to solo female explorers is, "Why?" Whether intentional or not, that can have judgmental undertones. As in, "Why do this alone? Why on earth would you risk yourself like this? What could be so important? Are you crazy?"

Marquis had numerous issues with her safety, but so have scores of other explorers. Motivated by curiosity, seeking closer connections with nature, and seeing the world in a new way, experienced explorers make calculated risks. Along the way, they are brave and resilient. Because, as Marquis says, adventure is a state of mind.

via espnW

7. Liv Arnesen

March 30, 2012 -

Men tend to dominant the historic tales of adventurous daring-do and new places discovered, as the traditional position of women kept them out of the exploration business. But many of women have bucked that trend, and OurAmazingPlanet wants to give them their due. From polar extremes to the depths of the oceans, women explorers have been charting new territory all around the world. Here are seven women who have changed the world and shattered glass ceilings for all explorers. Liv Arnesen is a Norwegian explorer who made international headlines when she became the first woman to ski solo to the South Polein 1994 — a 50-day expedition of 745 miles (1,200 kilometers). Together with explorer Ann Bancroft, she is organizing an international expedition team of six women, from six continents, on an 800-mile (1,300-km), 80-day long expedition to the South Pole in November 2012. They dedicated the new adventure to the issue of international access to clean water. [Their website: YourExpedition.com]

6. Ann Bancroft Ann Bancroft is a "Jane-of-all-exploration-trades." She was the first woman to reach the North Pole on foot and by dogsled, which she accomplished in 1986. She was also the first woman to cross both polar ice caps to reach the North and South Poles, as well as the first woman to ski across Greenland. In 1993 Bancroft led a four-woman expedition to the South Pole on skis; this expedition was the first all-female expedition to cross the ice to the South Pole. In 2001, Ann and her friend Liv Arnesen (see number 7) became the first women to ski across Antarctica.

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5. Junko Tabei In 1975, Tabei became the first woman to summit Everest. She was an avid mountain-climber in Japan when the Yomiuri newspaper sent an all-woman team to Nepal to take on the challenge of climbing the world's highest peak. Fifteen women were selected out of hundreds of applicants. As the day grew closer, tragedy struck the group when the women were camping at an altitude of 6,300 meters and an avalanche struck the team's camp. Tabei lost consciousness for six minutes until her Sherpa guide dug her out. Twelve days after the avalanche, she became the first woman to summit Everest, taking the same route as Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in 1953. While Tabei has slowed her climbing with age, her goal is to climb the highest peak in every country in the world. She is the director of Himalayan Adventure Trust of Japan, an organization working on a global level to preserve mountain environments.

Sylvia Earle Earle is an oceanographer with an explorer's heart. Since 1995 she has been a National Geographic explorer-in-residence, sometimes called "Her Deepness"; or "The Sturgeon General." Earle has led more than 60 expeditions worldwide involving in excess of 7,000 hours underwater in connection with her research. She holds the recordfor the deepest women's solo free dive (going down to 3,281 feet (1 km). In 1979, she made an open-ocean dive in a special pressurized suit to the sea floor near Oahu, setting a women's depth record of 1,250 feet (0.4 km). At the bottom, she detached from the vessel and explored the depths for 2.5 hours with only a communication line connecting her to the submersible, and nothing at all connecting her to the world above. Photo: Wyland and Dr. Sylvia Earle anticipate their first dive together at Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge -- the 'window' into the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument. VIDEO: Cool Jobs, Adventurer

3. Valentina Tereshkova Although most people think of Sally Ride when they think of women in space, Russian Valentina Tereshkova was, in fact, the first female to fly. She was selected out of more than four hundred applicants, then five finalists, to pilot the Vostok 6 on June 16, 1963, becoming the first woman and the first civilian in space. During her three-day mission, she performed various tests on herself to collect data on the female body's reaction to spaceflight. Before being recruited as a cosmonaut, Tereshkova was a textile-factory assembly worker and an amateur parachutist. After the dissolution of the first group of female cosmonauts in 1969, she became a prominent member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, holding various political offices. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, she stayed in politics and remains revered as a hero in post-Soviet Russia

2. Jackie Ronne Edith "Jackie" Ronne was the first woman to explore Antarctica. At the age of 28, Ronne followed her husband, Finn Ronne, an explorer, on an expedition to Antarctica in 1947. She was the first woman ever to brave the winter season of Antarctica, along with Canadian Jennie Darlington. Ronne's goal for the expedition was to write her adventures for the North American Newspaper Alliance and the New York Times. Often remembered as "Antarctica's First Lady," Ronne had a history degree from George Washington University that provided her with the skills to chronicle the adventures she shared with the expedition team during their "winter." Photo: Jackie Ronne and her husband Finn on skis in Antarctica during an expedition from 1946-1948.

1. Cindy Lee Van Dover Van Dover had an early fascination with Jules Verne's Captain Nemo character from the "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" while growing up on the New Jersey shore chasing crabs. Her love of exploration and the oceans led her to oceanography, with academic adventures in ecology and invertebrate zoology. Her work deals with the ecology of deep sea vent communities -- not quite 20,000 leagues under the sea, but just about as close as an explorer can get on this planet. Cindy was the first female pilot of Alvin, a deep-diving submersible. She has led 48 Alvin expeditions, which have led to the discovery of many new species and strange ecological relationships within the deep sea vent assemblages of mussels, shrimps, tube worms and bacteria.

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In Images: Sylvia Earle's 'Searching for Wisdom' Expedition Antarctica: 100 Years of Exploration (Infographic) Extreme Living: Scientists at the End of the Earth Copyright 2012 OurAmazingPlanet, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.