Monday, 4 January 2010

Looking Back - First British Women Reach South Pole

On this day in 2000, the first British women to walk across Antarctica to the South Pole arrived safely, more than two months after starting their record-breaking journey.
Catherine Hartley said she was "absolutely elated" to have completed the trek, which saw her nine-strong group cover 680 miles (1,094 km) while withstanding temperatures as low as -48C.
Fellow walkers Fiona Thornewill and her husband Mike won another record by becoming the first married couple to achieve the feat.
The expedition left London on 21 October 1999 for Punta Arenas in southern Chile, flying on to Patriot Hills near the Antarctic coast.
Ms Hartley admitted she found the trek very difficult, and had been afraid she might be forced to drop out because of the harsh weather.
Speaking from the South Pole, the 34-year-old said: "I am absolutely elated because the journey was a real struggle for me."
"I had to fight every inch of the way to get here and there were times when I honestly didn't think I was going to make it."
"To be here is absolutely thrilling and quite unbelievable."
Ms Hartley said her motive for undertaking the expedition was a "driving force of adventure".
"Antarctica is one of the last unexplored wildernesses," she added.
Ms Hartley, a floor manager at the BBC, and Mrs Thornewill, a 33-year-old recruitment consultant, underwent a rigorous training programme in the months preceding the trek. This included running while dragging tyres behind them, in preparation for the 200lb (90.7kg) sledges used to carry their supplies.
The group had originally hoped to reach the South Pole before the New Year but bad weather delayed the start of the trek by a few days.

Later that month another record was broken as a group of five British women became the first all-female expedition to reach both the North and South poles.
The women were personally congratulated by Prince Charles by satellite phone after reaching the South Pole at around 0600 GMT on 24 January 2000.

South Pole Facts
Temperatures at the South Pole can be as low as -75C, with winds of up to 80mph (129kmh).
Antarctica is the coldest and fifth largest continent - twice as big as Australia.
Visitors face crevasses up to 100ft (30.4m) deep and snow dunes up to 10ft (3.04m) high.

Animal Crackers

Don't push it!

Today's Smile

So, that's where babies come from!

Port Wine

Port wine (also known as Vinho do Porto, Porto, and often simply Port) is a Portuguese style of fortified wine originating from the Douro Valley in the northern provinces of Portugal. It is typically a sweet red wine, often served as a dessert wine, and also comes in dry, semi-dry, and white varieties. Fortified wines in the style of port are also produced outside of Portugal, most notably in Australia, South Africa, Canada, India, Argentina, and the United States. Under European Union guidelines, only the product from Portugal may be labeled as Port. Elsewhere, the situation is more complicated: wines labelled "Port" may come from anywhere in the world, while the names "Dao", "Oporto", "Porto", and "Vinho do Porto" have been recognized as foreign, non-generic names for wines originating in Portugal.
Port is produced from grapes grown and processed in the demarcated Douro region. The wine produced is then fortified by the addition of a neutral grape spirit known as Aguardente in order to stop the fermentation, leaving residual sugar in the wine, and to boost the alcohol content. The fortification spirit is sometimes referred to as Brandy but it bears little resemblance to commercial Brandies. The wine is then stored and aged, often in barrels stored in "caves" (pronounced "ka-vess" and meaning "cellars" in Portuguese) as is the case in Vila Nova de Gaia before being bottled. The wine received its name, "Port", in the latter half of the 17th century from the seaport city of Porto at the mouth of the Douro River, where much of the product was brought to market or for export to other countries in Europe. The Douro valley where Port wine is produced was defined and established as a protected region, or appellation in 1756 — making it the third oldest defined and protected wine region in the world after Chianti (1716) and Tokaj (1730).


Over a hundred varieties of grapes (castas) are sanctioned for Port production, although only five (Tinta Barroca, Tinta Cao, Tinta Roriz (Tempranilo), Touriga Francesca, and Touriga
Nacional) are widely cultivated and used. Although Touriga Nacional is the most celebrated Port grape, the difficulty of growing it and its small yields result in Touriga Francesca being the most widely-planted variety within the Douro. White ports are produced the same way as red ports, except that they use white grapes—Esgana-Cao, Folgasao, Malvasia, Rabigato, Verdelho, and Voisinoh. While a few shippers have experimented with Ports produced from a single variety of grapes, all Ports commercially available are from a blend of different grapes. Since the Phylloxera crisis, most vines are grown on grafted rootstock, with the notable exception of the Nacional area of Quinta du Noel, which, since being planted in 1925, has produced some of the most expensive commonly available Ports.
Grapes grown for Port are generally characterised by their small, dense fruit which produce concentrated and long-lasting flavours, suitable for long aging. While the grapes used to produce Port produced in Portugal are strictly regulated by the Instituto do Vinho do Porto vinos, wines from outside this region which describe themselves as Port may be made from other varieties.

Tawny port
Tawny ports are wines made from red grapes that are aged in wooden barrels, exposing them to gradual oxidation and evaporation. As a result, they gradually mellow to a golden-brown colour. The exposure to wood imparts "nutty" flavours to the wine, which is blended to match the house style.
Tawny ports are sweet or medium dry and typically drunk as a dessert wine.
When a Port is described as Tawny, without an indication of age, it is a basic blend of wood aged port that has spent at least seven years in barrels. Above this are Tawny with an indication of age which represent a blend of several vintages, with the average years "in wood" stated on the label. The official categories are 10, 20, 30 and over 40 years. For each category, the average age of the various vintage is at least that of the given category. It is also possible to produce an aged white port in the manner of a tawny, with a number of shippers now marketing 10 year old White Port.

Vintage port

Vintage port is made entirely from the grapes of a declared vintage year and accounts for about two percent of a year's total port production. Not every year is declared a vintage in the Douro. The decision on whether to declare a vintage is made in the spring of the second year following the harvest. The decision to declare a vintage is made by each individual port house, often referred to as a 'shipper'.
The port industry is one where reputations are hard won and easily lost, so the decision is never taken lightly. During periods of recession and war, potential 'declarations' have sometimes been missed for economic reasons. In recent years, some shippers have adopted the 'chateau' principle for declarations, declaring all but the worst years. More conventional shippers will declare, on average, about three times a decade.
While it is by far the most renowned type of port, from a volume and revenue standpoint, vintage port actually makes up only a small percentage of the production of most shippers. Vintage ports are aged in barrels for a maximum of two and a half years before bottling, and generally require another ten to thirty years of aging in the bottle before reaching what is considered a proper drinking age. Since they are aged in barrels for only a short time, they retain their dark ruby colour and fresh fruit flavours. Particularly fine vintage ports can continue to gain complexity and drink wonderfully for many decades after they were bottled, and therefore can be particularly sought-after and expensive wines. That said, vintage ports, even from the best years, while not cheap, tend not to reach the very high prices of prestige dry red wines, such as First Growth Bordeaux.

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