Top of the World
A husband and wife make a grueling trip to the North Pole to cap
a historic trekking triple crown
On a sweltering Manhattan evening early in early June, Tom and
Tina Sjogren gutted out one of the grittiest performances in New
York City cocktail party history. At a reception in their honor
at the Swedish consulate, the couple stood for two hours beneath
a chandelier in a handsomely appointed but poorly
air-conditioned room, sipping white wine, wolfing down hors
d'oeuvres and looking, well, ghastly. They were gaunt and frail,
their complexions crinkly and red. Most noticeably, both sported
brown patches of dead, peeling skin on their faces. "It's just
frost-nip, it's not contagious," said Tina as she helped herself
to another plate of polenta with sun-dried tomato. Catching the
worried glance of one guest, she added, "I just got back from
the North Pole. I'm eating."
Six days earlier, the Sjogrens, who hail from Sweden but live in
Manhattan, had completed a 68-day, 483-mile trek to the top of
the globe, a trip that cost Tina 20 pounds and Tom 30. It was
the third and crowning leg of a historic quest they began three
years ago when they reached the 29,035-foot peak of Mount
Everest. Having also made it to the South Pole, in February,
they are the first husband-and-wife team to have stood atop
Everest and both poles, and only the fourth and fifth people to
have done so. (Tina is the first woman.)
What's most impressive about the Sjogrens' trifecta is that the
couple completed both polar expeditions unsupported, doing
everything without the aid of dogs or support planes. They skied
across the Arctic, each pulling two 170-pound sleds packed with
supplies and wearing the same clothes throughout the trip. Tina
became the first woman to complete an unsupported trek to the
Married for 19 years, Tom, 42, and Tina, 43, didn't set out to
be the world's greatest adventure couple. Indeed, almost all of
their early energies went into the creation of their
Stockholm-based business, Easyshop, a nationwide tissue-delivery
service. "We know you're out of toilet paper before you do,"
Tina says with a wink. As the company took off in the early
1990s, the couple decided to indulge their shared passion for
adventure. "If we haven't done something, we just want to know
how it feels," says Tina. "That's what drives us."
"We're not millionaires," adds Tom. "Instead of buying summer
houses, we invest in things like this."
In spite of their optimism, the couple probably spent most of
their Arctic expedition wishing they had invested in an East
Hampton time-share instead. To reach the South Pole, they skied
for 63 days, covering 1,250 miles, while losing nearly 20 pounds
each. A toe on Tom's right foot was frostbitten. Nevertheless,
after only 37 days of rest, recuperation and cheesecake in New
York, they were skiing north on Arctic ice, on March 22.
The trip quickly turned miserable. Temperatures during the early
stages were as low as -58[degrees]. Everything froze. Contact
lenses shattered and came out in pieces. Tom and Tina averaged
10 hours of skiing a day, pausing only to pull on
specially-designed dry suits to swim their sleds across leads of
open water--as wide as 1,000 feet--or to haul their gear over
15-foot ridges in the ice. Some days, they covered no more than
two miles. "We didn't think, we just went," Tom says. "I'm still
surprised we made it."
The Sjogrens, who receive some sponsorship from mobile-phone
giant Ericsson as well as other technology companies eager for
them to test equipment in extreme conditions (during their treks
the couple filed daily dispatches to their website,
www.thepoles.com), say they haven't yet decided on their next
adventure, though Tom says they're interested in making a desert
crossing or going to the lowest point on earth, the Mariana
Trench, 36,204 feet below the surface of the Pacific. Oh, and
there's just one other place they'd like to explore. "We want to
go into outer space," says Tom.
"Everything's possible right now except for space," says Tina.
"But we are not 50 yet." --Mark Beech
The buzz surrounding the possible trip of 'N Sync singer Lance
Bass to the International Space Station in October (SI, May 27)
just became a little sexier. When asked in early June about
Bass's joining his 2002 space odyssey, ISS commander Valery
Korzun betrayed little excitement. He had another proposal.
"What about Cindy Crawford?" he asked. "We would love to see one
of the supermodels." And what does the 36-year-old supermodel
think about the prospect of becoming the first Cosmo cover girl
turned cosmonaut? Inquiring minds put the question to her during
her trip to Moscow last week. "I would go if I could be there
and back in a week," she said. "If they invite me, maybe."
Hours that Austrian cyclist Wolfgang Fasching had slept in eight
days of almost nonstop riding in the 20th Race Across America
(www.raceacrossamerica.org). As of Monday, with 264 miles to go
on a course that extends 2,992 miles from Portland to Pensacola
Beach, Fla., and climbs some 100,000 vertical feet, Fasching
held a 230-mile lead over his nearest opponent, the U.S.'s Rob
For more adventure, go to siadventure.com and check out these
--Flashback: SI's Tour de France coverage from 2001
--Transworldmatrix.com: your source for extreme sports
--Trail guide: U.S. National Parks info database
Shark, an Adrenaline Book
Edited by Nathaniel May
293 pp, $17.95
Avalon publishing's Adrenaline series is a 24-volume collection
made up of such mononymic titles as Blood, Wild, Rescue, Mob,
Climb and now this latest book, Shark. Like its predecessors,
Shark aims to boggle readers' brains with tales of chilling and
near-fatal adventures (the book's subtitle is Stories of Life
and Death from the World's Most Dangerous Waters) and depends
entirely upon old, sometimes classic, pieces to do it. The range
of nonfiction accounts, excerpts from novels and even poetry
(James Dickey's The Shark's Parlor) could satisfy the most
wanton fish fetish.
While several individual pieces are strong, Shark's flaw is its
thin conceit. With so many descriptions and tales from so many
perspectives, the book achieves the dubious double of feeling at
once fragmented and repetitive. One character, Rodney Fox, who
survived a 1963 great white attack that left him with his
entrails hanging out, shows up in two stories (by Peter
Matthiessen and Jean-Michel Cousteau), but for the most part the
tales are as unrelated as Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the
Sea and Peter Benchley's Jaws--both of which are excerpted.
There's a story in which the "concepts of shark" are studied "in
the context of art and nature" and lots of pieces in which
biologists examine shark behavior. Shark will never be a big
fish in your library, but it's not a bad book to take on a
family trip to the shore. It's well worth an occasional browse,
and it'll keep the kids from going in over their heads.
Rich guys with Nothing Better to Do Department, Part I: Count
Alvaro de Marichalar (above), the brother-in-law of Spain's
Princess Elena, came ashore in Miami to complete a four-month
Atlantic crossing on a Jet Ski. Count Alvaro, who set out from
Rome in February, spent an average of 12 hours a day on the
water and slept on a 60-foot support boat. "It was quite scary,"
insisted the count, who subsisted primarily on milkshakes,
grapes and bananas. "Every moment at sea is unique. You realize
you are nobody at all--just a little tiny thing in the house of
God."... Rich Guys with Nothing Better to Do Department, Part
II: If it's summer, Steve Fossett must be attempting a first
solo flight around the world in a hot-air balloon. In the
adventure world's longest-running version of the Agony of
Defeat, the 58-year-old Chicago billionaire is taking his sixth
crack at a solo circumnavigation. Fossett, who launched on June
19 from the Australian village of Northam, floated 12,695 miles
last August before cutting his voyage 11,700 miles short in
Brazil because of nasty weather over the Atlantic. As of Monday
he had traveled 7,060 miles and was over the South Pacific....
When Fossett ends that attempt, he can focus on reclaiming his
recently eclipsed 24-hour sailing mark. On June 13 British
sailor Tracy Edwards and the 13-person crew of Maiden II
completed a 697-nautical-mile run off the East Coast of the U.S.
to shatter the record of 687 nautical miles set by Fossett's
PlayStation on Oct. 6 and 7 of last year.
Six months after the slaying of Peter Blake, the killers of the
renowned sailor face the music
On the evening of last Dec. 5, as a group of bandits waylaid him
and his 10-person crew off Brazil's northern coast, Peter Blake
(SI, Dec. 17) raced down into his cabin and resurfaced moments
later brandishing a rifle. You know the rest: Blake was shot
dead and New Zealand, in the words of one writer, "was gripped
by a paroxysm of grief that reminded many of Britain's after the
death of Princess Diana." As much as they revered their
countryman in life and have mythologized him since his death,
though, New Zealanders have been torn over whether the sailor
acted unwisely by resisting his attackers. Meanwhile, those
attackers used the image of the rifle-wielding Blake as the
basis for their defense that they were merely defending
The debate as to whether Blake would still be alive if he hadn't
resisted persists, but the question of the bandits' culpability
was firmly answered last Thursday when a Brazilian judge
declared each of the six men guilty of latrocinio--or armed
robbery leading to death--and sentenced them to prison terms
ranging from 26 to 36 years. Said Leon Sefton, the last crew
member to see Blake alive, to The New Zealand Herald, "It
doesn't bring Pete back, but I suppose the decision the judge
arrived at [has] blown apart any insinuation that there was
anything but an appropriate response from Pete and the crew."
TWO COLOR PHOTOS: WWW.THEPOLES.COMICING IT After 68 days of skiing and floating, Tom and Tina enjoyed a moment at the pole.
COLOR PHOTO: RICHARD ELLIS/CORBIS-SYGMA
COLOR PHOTO: AMOS NACHOUM/THE IMAGE BANK/GETTY IMAGES
COLOR PHOTO: COLIN BRALEY/REUTERS
COLOR PHOTO: DAVID GILES/AFP Just Cause A judge ruled Blake acted in self-defense.
COLOR PHOTO: RIC FREARSON-QUEST/AP Wipeout BROW-BITTEN Cold-blooded killer or innocuous attacker trying to bite off more than it could chew? The latter. Having removed this 10-foot-long carpet snake from a roof, Australian snake handler Peter Morningstar and the nonvenomous reptile--which left only small puncture marks on Morningstar's mug--struck an affectionate pose for a Brisbane newspaper.