“I don’t think I realized until they were already on the ice and we were resupplying them on the peninsula … [and] we had trouble getting planes into them that in fact somebody could die on this expedition,” says Cathy de Moll, executive director of the 1990 International Trans-Antarctica Expedition and author of Think South: How We Got Six Men and Forty Dogs Across Antarctica. “It was that creeping realization that we were putting all sorts of people’s lives at risk … there was a lot that could have gone seriously wrong.”
As executive director, De Moll stayed behind the scenes and off the ice, keeping the treacherous trip on track and the six-man team supplied and alive. In the book, she recounts how the expedition, the first and only non-mechanized traverse across Antarctica led by dogsled, reached several breaking points and how often the international team — which included members from the United States and then-Soviet Union, among other countries — was confronted by perilous situations, including broken airplanes, lack of fuel, and missing food.
Despite her high-pressure position, De Moll had her doubts about writing the book. “I wasn’t sure people would be interested in it because it wasn’t on the ice,” she admits. “I think my first title was Memories of an Expedition by the One Who Didn’t Go.’”
The most important takeaway De Moll wants readers to get from her book, which came out last October, is the idea of cooperation and togetherness. “If we are committed to working together, we can do a lot,” she says. “If we get wrapped up in those differences, it paralyzes us — then there’s no way forward.”
Cathy de Moll comes to Santa Barbara to sign Think South: How We Got Six Men and Forty Dogs Across Antarctica at Chaucer’s Books (3321 State St.) Sunday, February 28, at 2 p.m. Call (805) 682-6787 or visit chaucersbooks.com.