By the mid-19th century, scientists and colonists had joined the southbound parade. Then, at the turn of the century, historic adventurers such as Scott and Shackleton from Great Britain risked all to become the first to reach the South Pole -- a prize finally grasped by Norwegian Roald Amundsen in 1911. Later, Australias greatest antarctic pioneer Douglas Mawson left his own mark in the annals of southern exploring. It was to the site of Mawsons old base camp at Commonwealth Bay, where the McIntyres had erected their "hut" in commemoration to their countryman, that we were bound. Slowly bound. A huge high pressure system stationed over southern Australia was frying the continent and providing our crew of eight aboard the ex-BOC 60-footer Spirit of Sydney with unusual but favorable early conditions. Beating on port tack into moderate southeasterlies, we were fulfilling skipper Steve "The Nig" Corrigans initial goal of working well to the west of the rhumb line -- and positioning ourselves for a favorable slant on our ultimate destination when the westerlies finally filled. Four days into the journey, three days into 1996, five miles past the 49th parallel, progress stopped. The ocean was flat and gray. The sails hung flaccid and empty. It was foggy, like an early summer morning back home on Block Island Sound. We were on the bottom edge of the fearsome Roaring Forties. We hadnt seen a breath of westerly breeze. We were utterly becalmed.