National Geographic : 1967 Aug
mountaineer William Wallace, and limp with relief we all slumped on the sledge. "Unless that's a mirage," said our naviga tor, Roger Tufft, "in another few days you'll be the first woman ever to have crossed Greenland's Inland Ice on your own two legs -or any way, for that matter." And so, indeed, it turned out. But hardly can it be said, as we hear of some sporting events, that "the outcome was never in doubt." It was very much in doubt before we even made our first landfall in ice-jammed Johan Peter sen Fjord on Greenland's east coast. Ordeal Provides a Study of Stress Why were we in Greenland anyway? And why had I, a wife and mother of three, under taken the arduous foot-crossing of the Green land Icecap? The second question is quickly answered: Hugh and I have spent much of our married life exploring remote lands. Pure ly as adventure, the Greenland crossing would satisfy our souls. Only one party had previously crossed Greenland's Inland Ice without using dogs or powered vehicles. The intrepid Fridtjof Nan sen made the first ski traverse from east to west in 1888. Hauling five sledges, the six man party dispelled rumors of verdant pas tures hidden in the hinterland. We had deliberately chosen to repeat this grueling trek to measure the effects of its mental and physical demands upon us. Hugh is a pathologist on the staff of the Royal In firmary in Glasgow. Most of his professional life has been dedicated to learning the effects of stress on human beings. One key to this study is the output into the blood of adrenal hormones called corticoids. The adrenal glands, located above each 266 Traversing the Inland Ice, as the vast frozen interior is known, the Scottish Trans Greenland Expedition matched the 1888 feat of Norwegian explorer FridtjofNansen. No other group has made the trip without dogs or motorized vehicles. Crossing the Arctic Circle, the four ex plorers spanned the world's largest island, trekking 440 miles in 40 days. Danger, dis comfort, and uncertainty dogged their tracks over the massive cake of ice that lies atop this county of Denmark, fifty times bigger than the mother country. The bold adven ture furthered research by Dr. Hugh Simp son-a pathologist at the Royal Infirmary in Glasgow and a lecturer at Glasgow Univer sity-into the effects of stress on humans. kidney, are stimulated in pressure situations. Body tissues are bathed in corticoid hor mones. Eventually these stress hormones are liberated into the urine, and on our cross Greenland journey Hugh, at regular intervals, would collect specimens for later laboratory analysis. Does the body get used to prolonged strain and cause the hormone level to drop to normal, Hugh wondered, or are the glands stimulated throughout the entire period? It was only natural that I should be first to enroll as one of Hugh's guinea pigs. Bill Wal lace and Roger Tufft jumped at the chance when Hugh asked them to round out the party. Bill, an expert skier and climber, had ascended Peru's highest peak-22,205-foot Nevado Huascaran-with Hugh and me in 1958. Roger and Hugh had shared consider able sledging experience in the Antarctic. Our expedition had support from medical research funds of the Secretary of State for Scotland and from the Mount Everest Foun dation, but the participants themselves pro vided the greater part of the financing. We mustered our team and assembled equipment for departure from Scotland in June, 1965. Flying to Iceland, we chartered a DC-3 for the hop to Greenland. My heart beat fast, one sparkling morning, to see the mountains of East Greenland, The Author: Myrtle Simpson, born into a British army family, has climbed and explored from the Australian outback to the Andes, from Spitsbergen to Surinam. A career as a radiologist, marriage, and the care of three children-none of these has curbed the wanderlust that lures her to the remot est parts of the world. Mrs. Simpson is the author of two books of family travel, Home Is a Tent and White Horizons (Victor Gollancz Ltd., London), the latter an account of the Greenland expedition.