Lisa Blair is about to set out on a very difficult sailing expedition. So much so, that no woman has ever accomplished it solo before. Next week, she will attempt to become the first female – and only third person ever – to sail solo and unassisted around Antarctica, navigating the challenging Southern Ocean, which remains treacherous even in the 21st century.
The journey is expected to take about three months to complete. She'll first depart from Albany in Western Australia, and will head south into the waters off the coast of the Antarctic. In order to maintain her solo and unassisted status, she'll need to spend the entire voyage onboard her ship, without making land stops of any kind, nor having personal contact with another person. She'll also have to sail completely without assistance.
In order to write her name in the history books, Blair must keep her ship below 45ºS latitude at all times. She'll also have to pass three of the most treacherous spots of land on Earth in the form of Cape Leeuwin, Cape Horn, and Cape Agulhas. Along the way, she hopes to set a new speed record for the Antarctic circumnavigation, besting the time set by Russian adventurer Fedor Konyukhov back in 2008. He managed to sail around the frozen continent in 102 days, 56 minutes, 50 seconds, covering some 16,400 miles (26,393 km) in the process.
Blair had intended to set out by now, but weather and upgrades to her ship have caused a few delays to the start of the expedition. The countdown clock on her website indicates that she will now get underway on Tuesday or Wednesday of next week, provided there are no more unexpected interruptions. When she does depart, she'll also be taking part in the Antarctica Cup Ocean Race as the lone competitor. The race is actually between Lisa and the clock, although she will try to stay in one of three electronically mapped "lanes," each of which have 18 individual "gates" that she'll pass through along the course.
Hopefully all will go according to plan, and Blair will start her epic voyage next week. You'll be able to follow Lisa's progress on her website as she makes her way through this wild and uncharted part of the world. It should be an amazing trip.