A TEAM of women led by a Portsmouth doctor set off today for the coldest place on earth.
The six soldiers form the first all-female British Army Ice Maiden team. They aim to trek 1,056 miles across Antarctica to help inspire a future generation of explorers.
The squad – whittled down from 250 applicants – includes Portsmouth-based army GP Major Nics Wetherill.
They head for the preparation base in the Chilean city of Punta Arenas knowing that when they embark on their 70-day Antarctic trek they will have to battle through temperatures of -50C with wind speeds of over 60mph.
using muscle power alone.
It is hoped they will complete the epic feat of endurance in around 70 days, relying on just two resupply points along the route, which runs from the Leverett Glacier to the Hercules Inlet via the pole.
The mammoth task has only previously been completed by one other woman, the explorer Felicity Aston in 2012.
Maj Wetherill will be leading the expedition, along with Major Nats Taylor, and has been training for months to complete the testing trek.
She said: ‘I came up with the idea ten years ago but only started actively pursuing it when I met Nats three years ago.
‘Now the whole team is ready to get out there and start the long ski to the South Pole.
‘We’ll be pulling our sleds for 10 hours a day with a five minute break every hour.
‘We hope it inspires other people to ask “What’s my Antarctica” and find their own personal challenge, whatever it might be.’
Maj Wetherill serves in the Royal Army Medical Corps and is based in Portsmouth.
As part of the team’s training, the women all learnt how to build snow igloos for shelter and have completed the British Army’s winter survival course, including ice-breaking drills and tackling a five-day expedition in the Arctic Circle with members of the Norwegian army.
During their trek there will be just two resupplies where the team will collect food and drop off rubbish.
They will carry enough food for 30 days at a time and are expected to consume between 4,000 and 6,000 calories per day.