An intrepid group of soldiers are today being hailed for their exceptional prowess and determination after becoming the first all-female team to cross Antarctica using muscle power alone.
The six-strong British Army team reached the end destination of Operation Ice Maiden on Saturday morning, after an epic 70 days skiing from coast to coast via the south pole in the unsupported mission.
Today the team are beginning a battery of medical tests and recovering from their ordeal before they head back to the UK next week.
Sophie, the Countess of Wessex, tweeted Royal congratulations this morning.
“Congratulations Ice Maidens!” – The Countess of Wessex
— The Royal Family (@RoyalFamily) January 20, 2018
Among the six is West Midlands-based Major Sandy Hennis, who is a Reservist officer with 37 Signal Regiment based in Redditch.
The team’s success was announced in this joyful Tweet on Saturday:
— Ice Maiden (@exicemaiden) January 20, 2018
Speaking after crossing the line, expedition leader 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 Hennis, speaking soon after crossing the finish line, said she was looking forward to inspiring school children to go for their dreams:
“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.”
The expedition was raising funds for Breast Cancer Care and the Army Cadet Forces Association. A full interactive website about the expedition, including the full route and a gallery of images, has been tracing their journey through a series of blogs.
After spending 62 days on the ice, the British Army’s Ice Maiden Expedition crossed the finish line at the Hercules Inlet just before 10am on Saturday.
The team travelled up to 27 miles (43km) a day, navigating crevasse fields while pulling sledges weighing up to 80kg (176lbs) and battling temperatures as low as minus 40C.
A short video summary of the expedition features in this congratulatory tweet to the team from the British Army:
Congratulations Ice Maidens. The British Army’s Ice Maiden expedition has become the first all-female team to cross Antarctica using muscle power alone. Ordinary women doing extraordinary things. #inspitation #icemaidens #findyourantarctica @exicemaiden pic.twitter.com/lrc4knekZ0
— British Army (@BritishArmy) January 20, 2018
About West Midlands team member Sandy Hennis
- Major Sandy Hennis is a Reservist officer with 37 Signal Regiment based in Redditch and works in an employer support role.
- She started her Army career as a radio technician before commissioning back into the Royal Signals. After completing tours of Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan she left the Regular Army to join the Reserves in 2014. Sandy splits her time between leading overseas expeditions, outdoor instruction and team building/leadership development.
- She enjoys anything which takes her outdoors and can’t turn down a challenge, which has led to many adventures from traversing the Cuillin Ridge to completing the Devizes to Westminster kayak marathon, and more recently competing in the Original Mountain Marathon (OMM).
- She is currently studying Spanish and can usually be found living out of her camper van, wandering in the hills with her dog Bracken or riding the local mountain bike trails.
- Follow her on twitter @icemaidensandy