It was 1:01 a.m. at the South Pole — 7:01 a.m. in New York — when Ann Curry reported live by satellite phone that after eight days of trying, she had finally reached the absolute end of the earth.
“Just a few moments ago, we touched down at the South Pole,” the TODAY co-host said Thursday, her voice thick from the effects of the -53 degree air. When she landed, she became one of just about 7,000 people who have ever made it to the bottom of the planet.
“We can feel the altitude,” Curry reported. “I can feel all the moisture on my face freezing as I’m speaking to you. We’re the first NBC News team to make it to the South Pole. We’re feeling really lucky. The sun is shining. It’s absolutely beautiful here. It’s flat. Lots of great people. We were actually, if you can believe it, greeted by ‘Welcome Ann’ signs. I can’t believe that.”
Last week, Curry began her epic journey, flying from New York to New Zealand via Los Angeles and then to McMurdo Station on the edge of Antarctica. On Monday, she reported from there as TODAY’s Matt Lauer reported live from Greenland and Al Roker reported from the cloud forest of Ecuador on the equator.
For two days, the team delivered stories from the ends of the earth, focusing on the effects of climate change on the most vulnerable parts of the earth. By Wednesday, Roker and Lauer were back in New York, while Curry remained at McMurdo, determined to wait for weather that would permit a flight to the pole.
“The last eight days, every single flight has not been able to make it,” Curry said. “Something like more than 20 flights have not been able to take off or have turned back.” One flight had been so rough that every person aboard got airsick, she said.
For more than a week, the farthest Curry got was to board a plane on Wednesday that was never able to take off. Then, on Thursday, the weather finally cleared enough for the flight to take off.
“We sure tried a lot,” Curry said. “There were many, many, many days of waiting, but I guess perseverance pays off, guys. This is a moment everybody on our team will never forget.”
Antarctica, which is one and a half times the size of the U.S. is often called the coldest, driest, windiest place on earth. With 90 percent of the world's ice, it is the planet's cooling system regulating temperatures worldwide. The coldest temperature ever recorded on Earth — minus 128 degrees Fahrenheit — was in Antarctica.
So, as you can imagine, traveling around Antarctica isn’t easy, with often unforgiving weather conditions. In her quest to share more about the wonders of that end of the earth, Curry and her team waited with great anticipation for their chance to fly to the South Pole.
As part of TODAY’s historic broadcast from the “Ends of the Earth,” exploring the extraordinary diversity of life on the planet and the limits of human exploration, anchor Ann Curry traveled to the very bottom of the globe, Antarctica, broadcasting from such extreme locations as the McMurdo Research Station. Her team's ultimate goal: the South Pole.
Twelve thousand miles away from Matt Lauer, who was reporting live from the North Pole Monday, Curry proudly announced it was the first time NBC News was reporting live from Antarctica, calling it a stunningly beautiful continent.