MINNEAPOLIS -- Polar explorers Ann Bancroft and Liv Arnesen had guests for the night Friday: the pilots of the search-and-rescue plane they called a day earlier to pluck them from the Ross Ice Shelf.
Bancroft and Arnesen, who made history last Sunday as the first women to ski across Antarctica, had planned to ski and parasail several hundred more miles to McMurdo Station and catch a ship. But with no wind for several days, the women decided Thursday to call for the airplane.
Ironically, wind conditions on Friday were perfect for parasailing, said Charlie Hartwell, president of yourexpedition.com, the Minneapolis company supporting the expedition.
Windy conditions at the airplane's takeoff point, and then bad weather at the women's location, delayed the flight until 6:30 a.m. CST Friday. It landed about five hours later, Hartwell said.
They waited several hours for windy conditions at their destination point to subside, but decided to call it a night and try again in the morning, Hartwell said. The pilots set up a tent they brought and used special screws to secure the plane to the ice so heavy winds wouldn't blow it over.
Hartwell said the party has at least five or six days to wait for conditions to improve before the onset of Antarctic winter puts them in danger, but they were hopeful to fly out Saturday morning.
Even after they make the flight to McMurdo Station, site of a U.S. National Science Foundation base, the women still may have to wait until weather allows a helicopter to fly from an Australian ship to pick them up, Hartwell said. The ship was settled in near Cape Royds; the ice was too thick to reach McMurdo, he said. The helicopter, which has a 100-mile range from the ship, was to scout for a landing spot.
"The decision that they made yesterday (to request the plane) is completely bearing itself out," Hartwell said. "It's taken them 24 hours just to get the plane there. It still may be hours before they take off. They could get to McMurdo and still have to stay in a tent for 24 hours."
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