Until 1969, the United States Navy had refused to transport women to the continent and the US agency that coordinated Antarctic research didn’t allow women to work there.
When the ban was lifted in 1969, New Zealander Pamela Young, and five American women in a separate party, worked on the ice that year and became the first women to set foot at the South Pole.
When Bradshaw successfully applied in 1975, she was joined by British geologist Susan West.
“She’d done a PhD on Antarctic rocks but she’d never been down. She only worked on the rocks that men brought back.”
West came to New Zealand at her own expense when she heard that New Zealand was including women in their programme.
Bradshaw and West arrived at Scott Base to prepare for their field expedition.
“It didn’t bother us at all. We thought we’d fit right in, but when we went to the bar it was full of bearded characters who glowered at us and said, ‘We came down here to get away from people like you.’”
Scott Base had not been set up for women.
A post office cupboard had to be converted into a women’s toilet and specific times were allocated for women to shower.
Bradshaw remembers having to push back against special treatment - even though some of it was well meaning.
“Even in the 70s and 80s there were the odd times when leaders would try to stop you doing full survival training. They would say being alone in a snow cave overnight was too dangerous. But we stuck to our guns and, in the end, they didn’t hold it against us.”
Bradshaw’s first trip to “get some rocks” turned into a lifetime of research. In the Dry Valleys she discovered rocks with strange patterns like spaghetti.
“I saw this on the first trip and thought, ‘This is interesting. What caused these?’”
These rocks and this question set Bradshaw on a career path that included nine Antarctic research trips and continues today.
The rocks are what are known as trace fossils - the spaghetti marks turned out to be made by a burrowing sea creature that lived on the bottom of the sea 400 million years ago.
In 1979, Bradshaw was the first woman to lead a deep field party.