Love lost in a cold climate: Sexual harassment of women rife in ice-bound Antarctica
Monday 30 August 1993
For many female expeditioners who have ventured to Antarctica in recent years with the same spirit of adventure that has taken thousands of men there for a century, the experience has turned out to be a cold nightmare. It is summed up by an Australian female scientist who declared on her return: 'I will never be able to react to men again without bitterness and a heart of stone. I just want the hurt to go away.'
For this woman, the upset came from being accosted by naked men in the middle of the night. When she tried to talk about it with male colleagues, the response was yet more sexual suggestions. Another Australian woman sat down to dinner 17 nights in a row in her station's mess to find sealed envelopes with pornographic photographs put anonymously at her place. At yet another station, one female expeditioner discovered men were making large bets to see who could 'bed' her.
Michele Raney, an American doctor who was the first woman to spend a winter at the South Pole, brought back a copy of the Antarctic Society newsletter which said: 'When God created the world, He had this place in mind where men could retreat and continue their youthful games of playing in the snow and flying balloons.' One of Dr Raney's colleagues told her when she arrived: 'I can't be normal because of you.'
Most of Antarctica's female expeditioners are professionally qualified members of research projects on marine life and world weather patterns. Life on the Antarctic ice cap is harsh and isolating: during winter months, there are only about 1,000 people in a land 48 times the size of Britain. A survey for the Hobart conference, organised by the Australian Antarctic Foundation, a government body, found women very much a minority. Of 19 countries with survey teams in Antarctica last winter, only six had included women in their work during the previous 10 years. The average participation rate of women in such teams is less than one in 10. The US and New Zealand have comparatively high female involvement.
Britain has been more cautious about sending women to Antarctica. Barry Heywood, deputy director of the British Antarctic Survey, said the British quarters were too small to tolerate 'some types of relationship'.
Tim Dalmau, a psychologist who counsels members of Australia's expeditions, believes the male chauvinism stems from the continent's rugged, male-dominated history of competitive exploration, such as the race for the South Pole between Scott and Amundsen 82 years ago. 'It's such an exotic, remote place that men feel the normal rules of society don't apply. Women become aliens in a tribe. I've been told of things so close to rape it would be hard to distinguish.
'There's been much talk lately about reconciliation between Aboriginal Australians and European Australians. I suspect a similar debate could be had regarding women and men in Antarctica. Unfortunately, I fear this is unlikely to occur.'
- 1 Hilary Mantel 'should be investigated by police' over Margaret Thatcher assassination story, says Lord Bell
- 2 Stamford Hill council removes 'unacceptable' posters telling women which side of the road to walk down
- 3 Kim Kardashian 'nude pictures' leaked on 4chan weeks after Jennifer Lawrence 'The Fappening' scandal
- 4 Alex Salmond: 'The rocks would melt with the sun before I'd ever set foot in the House of Lords'
- 5 Ice Bucket Challenge: US firefighter Tony Grider dies after participating in charity craze near power lines
'The Fappening': Rihanna 'nude pictures' claims emerge on 4Chan as hacking scandal continues
Stamford Hill council removes 'unacceptable' posters telling women which side of the road to walk down
Kim Kardashian 'nude pictures' leaked on 4chan weeks after Jennifer Lawrence 'The Fappening' scandal
The Fappening: Jennifer Lawrence leaked 4Chan sex video branded 'fake' by forum users
Hitler’s former food taster reveals the horrors of the Wolf’s Lair
Scottish independence referendum: A nation divided against itself
Scottish referendum results: Cross-party consensus collapses amid Tory-Labour spat on the 'English question'
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
Plebgate MP Andrew Mitchell called officer a 'little s**t', claim court documents 'exposing ex-Chief Whip's 'record of abusing police'
Archbishop of Canterbury admits doubts about existence of God
Hilary Mantel 'should be investigated by police' over Margaret Thatcher assassination story, says Lord Bell
£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...
Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...
Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...
Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...