When an opportunity arose to support an international team of women to ski the last degree to the North Pole, how could we resist?
Led by Felicity Aston MBE a group of 11 women from 10 nations (Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait, Slovenia, Sweden, France, Cyprus, Russia and the UK) leave this coming weekend from Barneo ice camp. Spending 10 days on the ice, they will attempt to ski roughly 100 km to reach the geographic North Pole.
Their polar expedition aims to inspire all women to reach beyond the expectation of others and fulfil their own life ambitions. Amongst the team is our former colleague and alumni from the University of St Andrews, Sea Mammal Research Unit, Susan Gallon.
Supporting the Expedition
Based in the Scottish office (Hi, it’s Lindsay Wilson here) I am a Senior Scientist with SMRU Consulting, and I will be speaking with the team on the ice every day as the main point of contact for the expedition. Being an all out logistics fanatic and dedicated project manager, I couldn’t resist the call-out on social media to support the expedition. I am thrilled to be a woman, supporting other women to achieve their goals and to share in the pioneering spirit of this expedition.
I am able to take on this important role for the expedition thanks to the support of my colleagues and my boss at SMRU Consulting. As a female leader in a company that employs several women scientists Carol Sparling, Technical Director of SMRU Consulting (a.k.a. the boss) is someone who believes in empowering individuals to be the best that they can be:
“I was delighted to be given the opportunity to support this expedition. Here at SMRU Consulting we are dedicated to attracting, retaining and developing our staff and the purpose of this expedition aligns well with our core values of sustainability, environmental stewardship and diversity. We wish the team every success and I will be following their progress with interest and more than a little jealousy!”
The Arctic Ocean plays a critical role in driving global climate. It assists the global circulation of water and air from the equator to the Poles, which drives our planetary weather systems; and it distributes fresh water into more southerly latitudes as it moves south and melts. Over the long term, global temperatures have been increasing and Arctic sea ice decreasing.
As well as sending a strong and positive message about gender equality, the multi-cultural expedition team is uniquely placed to highlight the need for greater cultural understanding when tackling global issues. Expedition leader Felicity Aston MBE:
“The world is facing global problems – such as climate change – that can only be tackled with global solutions. That requires everyone talking to each other more.”
Already gathered in the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard, the team have started the baseline data gathering for two scientific studies which will be conducted during the expedition. Both studies will contribute towards research aiming to make human spaceflight and interstellar exploration possible in the future. One looks at the impact of extreme environments on the body, while the other looks at the consequences on the human mind.
Lead scientist Audrey Bergouignan, is leading the Eat-Sleep-Ski study to determine the impact of polar conditions on energy needs, biological rhythms and physiological stress. This project represents an exceptional opportunity to better understand the physiological flexibility of our organism when facing extreme environmental conditions. While few men have been studied during Arctic explorations, no data exist in women!
Extreme psychology study
Lead scientist Nathan Smith, is leading the Extreme psychology study which aims to understand the psychological responses, developments and potential challenges individuals experience as a result of undertaking expeditions in extreme environments. The study will be investigating how each team members personal values change throughout the course of the expedition. Many people feel that they have been ‘changed’ by the experience of taking part in an expedition – we often call it a ‘life-changing’ experience – and this study seeks to pin down exactly how we are ‘changed’.
All of us in the company have worked in some hostile environments, experiencing some extremes in weather, labour and social comforts. Even minor discomforts can have an impact on individual and team moral and I’m confident that I speak for us all when I say we are really interested to follow the team members contribution to these studies and see the impact of extreme environments on the body and consequences for the mind.
All going well the expedition team fly out to Barneo ice camp on Saturday 14th April. Look out for an update from us about their adventures, we will post a rolling blog update with news from the ice. Lets live vicariously together!
In the mean time, check out Euro-Arabian Women’s North Pole Expedition 2018 web site. You can also listen to and subscribe to their pod cast ‘Polar Exposure’ and find out how it all started back in 2016, how their training expeditions went in Iceland and in Oman and listen to the individual members of the team discuss their backgrounds and ambitions for their polar expedition.