After spending 62 days on the ice, the six soldiers have become the first all-female team to cross Antarctica using muscle power alone.
Led by Major Nics Wetherill and Major Nat Taylor, Captain Zanna Baker, Lieutenant Jenni Stephenson and reservists Major Sandy Hennis and Lance Sergeant Sophie Montagne travelled 43 kilometres a day across crevasse fields, whilst pulling sledges weighing up to 80kg and battling temperatures as low as -40°C.
Speaking at the finish line Major Nics Wetherill said:
“I’m just so incredibly proud of the team. I can’t believe how far we’ve come… This journey has had good times, bad times and great times for all concerned, and each of them, I know, has made us better people.
“I now know my five companions so well as to be able to almost tell just from the back of their heads whether they are smiling or crying, although determining this when facing them can be just as difficult with their faces obscured by hoods, goggles and masks!”
Major Nat Taylor said:
“I have spent the last few days trying to imprint this beautiful landscape in my mind. We have called it home for close to two months now and I will, in a strange way, miss it a lot!”
Those who applied to take part had to be women serving in the Army, Regular or Reserve. Majors Taylor and Wetherill wanted to inspire women of all ages and abilities by carrying out the expedition.
Starting on the edge of the Ross Ice Shelf on 20 November 2017, the team climbed up the Transantarctic Mountains, via the Leverett Glacier, to reach the polar plateau. After re-supplying at the South Pole, the team turned north-west towards Hercules Inlet. They then skied 600km across uneven ground, spending Christmas day on the ice. From the final re-supply point at the base of the Thiel Mountains, they descended to the Hercules Inlet and the finish line.
Major Sandy Hennis said:
“I’m very much looking forward to talking in schools about our journey and what you can achieve if you believe in yourself and are willing to try. I know crossing Antarctica won’t be at the top of many people’s lists but I hope we have encouraged someone to try something different.”
— Ice Maiden (@exicemaiden) January 20, 2018
Lieutenant Jenni Stephenson said:
“I don’t think I fully appreciate what we’ve been up to yet. I hope that this is the beginning of more adventures. If we have managed to encourage just one person through our exploits, I will class this as a huge success.”
The team will have a short break in Chile before returning to the UK on 3 February.