HRH The Countess of Wessex has today launched the first all-female team to attempt to cross the Antarctic, with global infrastructure services company AECOM as the headline sponsor. No team of women, from any nation, has completed this extraordinary challenge before. The launch was held at the iconic Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in Camberley.
The expedition, called ICE MAIDEN, will set off in October this year crossing Antarctica, via the South Pole. The Ice Maidens will ski a total of 1,700 KMS, the equivalent distance from London to Gibraltar using only muscle power to pull sledges weighing more than their own bodyweight. They will battle 60mph winds and temperatures as low as -40°C in the expedition that is expected to take around three months.
The aim of the expedition is to inspire women and girls of all ages and abilities to become more active. Six women were selected to take part in the adventure, with Army doctors Major Natalie Taylor and Major Nicola Wetherill as the expedition leaders. The only conditions for applicants were that they were serving in the Army, Regular or Reserve, and female.
Major Wetherill said: “We wanted to inspire the female expeditionary spirit. Each training exercise provided a unique opportunity for the women involved to gain new skills and be inspired to organise their own expeditions. Although only six have been selected to go to Antarctica, we know that many more will have benefitted from the skills they have learned during the selection process.”
AECOM, which has been involved in some of the nation’s highest profile engineering projects of recent years from the 2012 London Olympic Park to The Shard, Crossrail and HS2, is honoured to be headline sponsor of the expedition.
Lara Poloni, Chief Executive of Europe, Middle East, India & Africa, AECOM, said: “AECOM is thrilled to be sponsoring such a historic expedition. The expedition demonstrates that women have the mental strength and physical endurance to operate in the most hostile environment on earth. My hope is that the expedition will inspire a new era of female expeditionary spirit, and encourage women and girls of all ages to take up exciting challenges.”
Randy Wotring, Chief Operating Officer, AECOM, commented: “The Ice Maidens are doing an excellent job of promoting an active lifestyle, female teamwork and leadership to women throughout the UK. As an equal opportunities employer, AECOM is always keen to promote great female role models to break down stereotypes and the Ice Maidens challenge is the ultimate opportunity to express our values.”
About AECOM AECOM is built to deliver a better world. We design, build, finance and operate infrastructure assets for governments, businesses and organisations in more than 150 countries. As a fully integrated firm, we connect knowledge and experience across our global network of experts to help clients solve their most complex challenges. From high-performance buildings and infrastructure, to resilient communities and environments, to stable and secure nations, our work is transformative, differentiated and vital. A Fortune 500 firm, AECOM had revenue of approximately $17.4 billion during fiscal year 2016. See how we deliver what others can only imagine at aecom.com and @AECOM.
About EXERCISE ICE MAIDEN
- Team of six women from the Regular Army and Army Reserve.
- Major Nics Wetherill, Royal Army Medical Corps
- Major Natalie Taylor, Royal Army Medical Corps
- Major Sandy Hennis, Royal Signals
- Lieutenant Jenni Stephenson, Royal Artillery
- Lieutenant Zanna Baker, Royal Artillery
- Lance Sergeant Sophie Montagne, Honourable Artillery Company
- Skiing 1,700km unsupported.
- Expedition is expected to take between 75 and 90 days.
- Pulks (sledges) will weigh up to 80kg each.
- Temperatures as low as -40°C.
- Wind speeds of up to 60mph.
- There will be two resupplies (one every 600km) where the team will collect food and drop off refuse. They will carry enough food for 30 days at a time.
- The women are expected to consume between 4,000 and 6,000 calories per day.
- Depart the UK for Punta Arenas, Chile in October 2017. Fly to the Leverett Glacier on Antarctica in November, ski 1,700km via the South Pole to Hercules Inlet, returning to the UK in February 2018.
- The expedition received 250 applicants – more than any other Army adventurous training package.
- 50 women were invited to a selection weekend in Capel Curig, Wales in September 2015.
- 22 women were selected for EXERCISE ICE BAMBI in Lakselv, Norway in March 2016. The squad completed the British Army’s Winter Survival Course, including ice-breaking drills and building and sleeping in a quincey (igloo), and undertook a five-day expedition in the Arctic Circle with the Norwegian Army.
- 12 women were selected to continue training for the next expedition, EXERCISE ICE READY in November 2016. Training together one weekend per month, they have combined long distance endurance events such as the Saunders Lakes Mountain Marathon with instruction on satellite communications, tent repairs, Arctic medicine and crevasse rescue drills.
- The squad are based all around the UK and abroad, from Germany to Wales and Catterick to London.