In space no one can hear you scream. In the vast vacuum between the southern tip of Tasmania and the ice floes of the Antarctic no one will be able to see Lisa Blair’s jaw drop, either, as nature’s agonising beauty makes her gasp in pain.
Lisa grew up on the Sunshine Coast and hadn’t seen snow until two years ago. That’s when a great white curtain came down onto the mountainous waves of the Southern Ocean as her yacht roared over them like a big-wave surfer on the ultimate high..
It was so cold she couldn’t feel her fingers; couldn’t feel her toes except for an excruciating burn as though she was standing on a hotplate instead of a heaving deck.
On December 14, Lisa hopes to celebrate her 30th birthday by sailing out of Albany, Western Australia to set a record-breaking course around Antarctica for 90 days. She wants to become the first woman to circumnavigate the frozen continent, solo, unaided and unassisted.
Only two men have performed the feat and she plans to shave 12 days off the 2008 record of Fedor Konyukhov, a Russian artist and Orthodox priest who looks like mad monk Rasputin and attacks long-distance pilgrimages to the South Pole, North Pole and the summit of Mount Everest with religious zeal.
He once rowed across the Atlantic Ocean and as Lisa prepares to chase his Antarctic record Fedor is in a row boat dodging sharks, whales and tankers on his 200-day odyssey across the Pacific from Chile to Brisbane.
Lisa reckons she can top his time for the 16,400 nautical mile Antarctic voyage by averaging 7.5 knots non-stop for three months. She says she might occasionally hit 28 knots with the teeth of the wind snapping at her stern and on a good day will churn through 300km of the world’s coldest, roughest water.
She will face perils, pitfalls and savage snowstorms as gale force winds whip through her cold, wet clothes. Condensation will build up in her cabin like rain and she will be in constant danger of a terrible, lonely death amid 30m waves. Aaaaaannd loving it.
“The fact it is so hard, so challenging is what grabs me,’’ she says. “There will be extreme conditions but I’m prepared for whatever Antarctica throws at me.’’