Thursday, April 22, 2010

Book Review: Liv Arnesen and Ann Bancroft with Cheryl Dahle, No Horizon Is So Far

Publisher/Year: Penguin, 2004

You have to be some kind of crazy to want to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to trek across Antarctica. So meet Ann Bancroft and Liv Arnesen, two women who demonstrated just how crazy they were when they did exactly this in 2001. No Horizon Is So Far is the inspiring true story of these two former school teachers who, despite living in different parts of the world (Arnesen is from Norway, Bancroft from the United States), shared the same wondrous dream to do what only one other team had ever done before—successfully cross a 1700 mile expanse of Antarctica ice. Some kind of crazy indeed.
No Horizon Is So Far: Two Women and Their Historic Journey Across Antarctica
Both women grew up with a fascination for following in the footsteps of famed explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton. Although they were met by all kinds of resistance along the way, neither woman was deterred from reaching out and grabbing onto their dreams with both hands. For Arnesen, it meant leading the first unsupported women’s team across the Greenland icecap. For Bancroft, it resulted in becoming the first woman known to have reached the North Pole by ice. Given their successful backgrounds with sub-zero environments, their next desire to walk, ski and ice sail across Antarctica does not seem all that crazy after all.

No Horizon Is So Far takes the reader not only through the three months Bancroft and Arnesen spent on the ice but also through the months leading up to their expedition. Such an expedition costs a lot of money, and the women surrounded themselves with a team of spirited and supportive marketing and management experts who spent innumerable hours getting everything into place.

These individuals went after corporate sponsorships that literally turned the women into human billboards. They developed a school curriculum that allowed over three million school children from around the world to follow their journey, filing daily reports by satellite phone and website updates. They did everything required short of actually walking across Antarctica themselves to ensure Arnesen and Bancroft fulfilled their goal.

Interspliced with logistic details from the office back in Minnesota are personal narratives from both Bancroft and Arnesen before, during and after the journey. They write about Arnesen’s frostbitten fingertips that she would soak in her morning oatmeal in order to stimulate circulation, and Bancroft’s stubborn refusal to be waylaid by torn shoulder muscles. They discuss the faulty emergency beacon that almost stopped the journey before it began. They recall the troubles with their ice sails, and the incident that left Arnesen dangling over a crevasse when she fell through the ice. Each anecdote reinforces just how absolutely inspirational and admirable these two women truly are in a world that needs all the inspiration it can get.

If you do not know anything about Antarctica prior to picking up this book, you need not worry. Bancroft and Arnesen transport you there through their richly detailed accounts. Through their eyes the blinding white of endless ice seems beautiful and mysterious, a heaven on earth containing a bounty of gifts and challenges.

The personal thoughts and emotions they share are what makes No Horizon Is So Far a book to be returned to time and time again as an inspirational tale of how one can turn adversity into opportunity no matter the circumstances. Their strength and courage puts them on par with Beryl Markham, the first to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean east to west, who provides the title for the book: ‘I learned to wonder. I learned what every dreaming child needs to know—that no horizon is so far that you cannot get above it or below.” Arnesen and Bancroft certainly have proven this in spades.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the review, sounds like an interesting story