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Home >Meet 47-year-old Liv Arnesen

Liv Arnesen, Polar Explorer

It would be easy to judge 47-year-old Liv Arnesen solely on her past accomplishments. Her hat contains many impressive feathers: first woman to ski solo to the South Pole, team leader of the first women's unsupported crossing of the Greenland Ice Cap, member of an Everest team.

It would also be easy to judge her on physical prowess. The 5-foot-11-inch Arnesen, who along with teammate Ann Bancroft will attempt to be the first women to traverse the continent of Antarctica, can mountain bike up a steep, slippery trail-- her long, powerful piston-like legs cranking-- without downshifting, sweating or even breathing hard.

But if you don't look beyond what is so blatantly impressive about her, you'll miss some important things: She is a wife, a mother, a teacher, an author, an entrepreneur and, whether she likes it or not, an inspiration.

She grew up in Baerum, a small town on the outskirts of Olso, Norway, her natural curiosity fueled by her family's outdoor pursuits. "We spent all our holidays in the mountains, especially in the wintertime," says Arnesen. " I really loved to be out there in the snow covered trees, the wide open spaces and the beautiful light. When my parents or my brother wanted to go in, I wanted to keep going."

If there is a difference between being a lover of the outdoors and being an explorer in the classical sense, it is the innate, burning desire to venture to unknown places, not only for adventure or prestige, but to come to a greater understanding of how you fit into the bigger picture.

For Arnesen, the explorations have never been about the glory, though she is regarded as a national hero in Norway. For her it's a mental thing; a suspended moment in one's life where what is important is the here and now, not the there and then. In a world full of distractions-from e-mails to traffic jams- Arnesen has learned to go outside to seek what is inside. "It's very seldom that you can have a thought that goes on and on, to push a dream, push, push, " she says. "You can have that when you are out there."

When Arnesen was about 11, her father, a construction worker, began working on the house of Fridtjof Nansen, a famous Norwegian explorer and the first person to cross the Greenland Icecap. She came by for a visit and was immediately smitten by the explorer's air. She went to the library and began to devour books about explorations, of Scott, Amundsen and Shackleton. "That was the start," she says

More on Liv...

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Days on the ice: 91
Position: 84.23S, 177.16W
Altitude: 184.0 ft
Temp: 14.0°F | -10.0°C
Distance: 1708.95 miles