Monica Christensen's South Pole Expedition

Monica sets out
Monica waves as the team sets out from the Bay of Whales

This private venture was named the Norwegian/British 90 Degrees South Expedition. In addition to Monica, a 36-year-old Swedish-born glaciologist, the venture also included British glaciologist Neil McIntyre, two Danish dog drivers Jan Almqvist and Jacob Meisner Larsen, and 22 Greenland huskies pulling two sleds. The expedition was supported by the MV Aurora which Monica had purchased for the expedition (during this season the Aurora also supported the Italian survey for their future base at Terra Nova Bay as well as a mapping expedition of Peter I Island).

Because of heavy ice conditions, Aurora reached the Bay of Whales on 6 December, about 3 weeks later than planned. The base camp was established at 7821'S-16507'W, with assistance from a chartered helicopter. Meanwhile, a chartered Twin Otter arrived from New Zealand; its main task was to establish five depots along the planned route to Pole. Depot 5, the southernmost of these, was at 8830'S. The Twin Otter also flew some of the expedition members south so they could view their planned route from the air.

The team set out for Pole on 17 December 1986. Their route took them south across the Ross Ice Shelf to the Axel Heiberg Glacier, partially following Amundsen's route. They reached Depot 4 on the Antarctic Plateau (8557'S) on 25 January.

But by this time there were serious concerns in Norway that the venture would not reach Pole before the station closed on 14 February. So after going a few miles south to 86 they turned around and headed back north on 29 January. They returned to their base camp on 27 February and were picked up by the Aurora on 1 March.

I was at Pole when this expedition was happening. And there was serious concern, as many people there had been present during the previous summer when the "Footsteps of Scott" expedition had arrived, and they'd witnessed the sad aftermath. NSF DPP director Peter Wilkniss (as well as the New Zealand authorities) had told Norway that they must urge Monica to turn back. And there was a great collective sigh of relief on station when she decided to do so.

Monica would reach Pole (by air) in 1991-92 on a government sponsored glaciology expedition that also included a search for Amundsen's tent...

The photo at the top of this page originally appeared in Verdens Gang (VG), the Oslo newspaper which had exclusive news rights for the expedition.