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Alone to the North Pole


TEST # 1


Part I

You are going to read part of an article about an Arctic explorer. For questions 1-8, choose the Answer (А, В, С or D) which you think fits best according to the text.

Alone to the North Pole

Photographer Christina Franco wants to become the first woman to reach the geographic North Pole solo and on foot. She tells Emma Smith about it.

Sixty days walking over ice and snow in temperatures as low as -45°C, with nothing to keep you company except the occasional polar bear. This is no small achievement. Only a few people have ever walked to the North Pole unassisted, and if Christina Franco succeeds, she will have earned a place in the history books and met one of the few remaining challenges of exploration left to women.

Her 480-mile journey will begin in northern Canada, dragging a sledge that weighs as much as she does. At the end of each day’s walking or skiing, she will pitch her tent in sub-zero temperatures, get into a sleeping bag filled with ice, and attempt to sleep to the unsettling background sounds of howling wind and cracking ice, which may or may not signal the approach of one of those polar bears. ‘I’ll carry a pistol to scare any bears away,’ says Franco, 42. ‘The bears that far north won’t have had contact with humans, fortunately, so they won’t associate me with food, but they will be curious and that’s dangerous. If it uses a paw to see what you are, it could damage your tent – or your arm. I imagine I’ll have quite a few sleepless nights.’

Many of the early polar explorers suffered from disease and injuries, and while modern technology (lightweight materials, satellite phones, planes on stand-by to carry out rescue missions) has lessened the dangers, it can never make such an inhospitable landscape anything approaching safe. It can take just five minutes for any uncovered skin to become frostbitten and, once the sun has risen, Franco will only be able to remove her sunglasses inside her tent, otherwise the intensity of the sunlight reflecting off the snow would cause snow blindness. Just to heighten the danger, the cold will slow down her brain functions, so it will be more difficult to make split-second decisions in the event of a sudden crisis.

She will use about 8,000 calories a day, losing nearly half a kilogram every 24 hours. ‘The problem is the human body can only take on about 5,500 calories a day,’ she says. ‘So you have to fatten up before you set off or you’ll run out of energy.’ Franco is currently trying to put on 19 kilos.

She may complain about not fitting into any of her dresses, but when Franco weighs herself in front of me and finds she’s lost one kilo rather than gained two, as she’d expected, she’s very upset. I hope my scales are wrong because, if not, I’ve lost weight,’ she says, reaching for one of many bars of chocolate lying around her kitchen.

Born in Italy, Franco moved to New York and then to London. She has become well known locally, thanks to a training routine that involves dragging a tractor tyre around the streets, fastened by a rope around her waist. When I meet her she is about to head out along the canal near her home. ‘I get a lot of comments,’ she says, laughing. ‘Cars stop and people take pictures. They think it’s really funny. Occasionally people sit on it when I’m not looking, or pull on it, to make it more difficult.’

Franco, who hopes her walk will raise money to fund research into motor neuron disease, has long been fascinated by exploring. ‘I remember, as a child, learning about the Italian Arctic explorer Umberto Nobile,’ she explains. ‘There are certain things that catch your imagination. The idea of people getting into frozen sleeping bags. It was remarkable to me, the idea of pushing the body like that and you didn’t just die. These things get hold of you and, if one day the opportunity comes your way, you can’t help yourself. Now, when I think how horrible it’s going to be, I know I’ve only got myself to blame!’

And if she gets there, will she celebrate? ‘Yes, my mum’s going to come in the plane to pick me up. She’s very worried and she hates the cold, but she’s going to conquer her fears to come and celebrate with me ... if I make it.’

1 What does the writer say about the history of exploration?

A Walking to the North Pole used to be considered easier than other journeys.

В No woman has ever completed the journey to the geographic North Pole.

С Female explorers have already done most of the world’s difficult journeys.

D Christina is already an important historical figure for her previous journeys.

2 ‘Unsettling’ (paragraph 2) means

A comforting. В worrying. С exciting D surprising.

3 What does Christina say about the danger from polar bears?

A They could injure her without meaning to. С In that part of the Arctic they are harmless.

В If they are hungry, they might attack her. D She will have to shoot any that attack her.

4 Which of these is a real risk to Christina during her walk?

A She won’t be able to think very quickly in emergencies.

В Sunlight reflected by the snow could quickly burn her skin.

С She will need to protect her eyes, even during the night.

D If she’s ill or has an accident, there will be no medical care.

5 Why, when she is talking to the writer, does Christina want to eat chocolate?

A She feels that she has little energy at the moment.

В She’s just found out her weight has gone down.

С She knows that her weight is actually going up.

D She always eats chocolate when she’s upset.

6 Some people are amused when they

A realize that she trains next to a canal.

В hear the funny remarks she often makes.

С learn that she intends to walk to the North Pole.

D see her pulling a heavy object behind her.

7 She decided to walk to the North Pole when she

A managed to survive a night in freezing conditions.

В was at last able to do something she felt she had to do.

С realized she was ill and she needed to pay for treatment.

D first heard about a famous explorer from her country.

8 What impression do we get of Christina’s attitude towards the walk?

A She now regrets deciding to go. С She knows how tough it will be.

В She wants to do it, but not alone. D She’s sure she will reach the Pole.

Part II

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