Amelia, 17, made it all the way to the South Pole—on skis!
Amelia Hempleman- Adams huddled in her tent, trying to sleep. The temperature was -35 degrees Celsius. Wind whipped across the frozen land, making it feel even colder. The icy gusts made the tent flap and even move a little at times.
It was November 2011. Amelia had bravely joined a group of adventurers on the trip of a lifetime. The group trekked 97 miles on skis and on foot across one of the coldest places on Earth. On December 9, Amelia, then 16, became the youngest person ever to ski to the South Pole.
A FAMILY ADVENTURE
The trip was very dangerous. At extremely cold temperatures, it takes only a few minutes for frostbite to set in when skin is bare. That can cause someone to lose a finger or a toe.
The team had to bring all the gear and food they would need. The nearest people were miles away.
Luckily for Amelia, she was traveling with an expert: her father, David. He is an adventurer who has gone on dozens of trips to places like Antarctica and the North Pole.
Before the trip, Amelia’s dad helped her gather all the gear she would need. Special clothing included layers of socks and gloves, scarves, hats, a snowsuit, and giant snow boots. “I walk a bit like an astronaut in them,” says Amelia.
Just gathering gear wasn’t enough to prepare, though. Amelia had to learn how to survive in an icy wilderness. She had to practice setting up a tent, cooking, and even going to the bathroom!
So before Amelia and her dad left, they practiced. How? By camping out in the coldest place they could find close to their home in England. They went to the deep-freeze room in a supermarket called Iceland.
“It was funny because all around us were boxes of frozen fish fingers and turkeys,” says Amelia. “We were there with our tent, sleeping bags, stove, and other equipment.”
OFF TO ANTARCTICA
When they were ready to begin their trip, Amelia and her dad flew from England to Chile, a country in South America. From there, they flew to Union Glacier in Antarctica.
“It was so bright and so cold, I knew I was in Antarctica,” says Amelia.
The group had one more flight on a tiny plane. Then they began their trek on skis, sometimes walking. They started from a spot where an early explorer, Ernest Shackleton, had to turn back during a trip across Antarctica in 1909.
It was 97 miles to their goal, the South Pole. All around them was empty sky and icy land. “You can’t imagine being in such a lonely place until you’re actually there,” says Amelia. “It’s just you and the team and the elements for as far as you can see.”
17 NIGHTS ON THE ICE
There were many things to get used to. The sun never sets at that time of year in Antarctica. That meant that sunlight streamed into the tents all night long. Plus, Amelia’s dad snores. That made it even harder for her to sleep.
Each team member had to pull a heavy sledge full of gear. By the end of the day, Amelia’s shoulders ached. One day, it was so cold, the sunglasses she was wearing caused a “cold burn” on her nose.
Another day, the group hit a whiteout. Snow was blowing so thickly that they could barely see. “That was scary,” recalls Amelia. “You have to put your head down and follow the sledge in front of you.” But the hardest thing for her was missing her friends back home.
After 17 nights, the group reached the South Pole. “It was simply amazing,” says Amelia, who is now 17. “It’s something I will remember for the rest of my life.”