Commonwealth Women’s Antarctic Expedition
“I commend you warmly for this exceptional initiative” - Mr Kamalesh Sharma, Commonwealth Secretary-General.
In December 2009, two teams of 4 women from across the Commonwealth will set off from opposite coasts of Antarctica to ski to the South Pole. They will travel some 500 miles across the most hostile environment on Earth; where temperatures fall to -30C, winds reach speeds of over 80mph, crevasses lurk beneath the ice and disorientating blizzards last for days at a time.
The women will be pulling sledges containing all the food, fuel and equipment they will need for their journey. Camping in tents on the ice when they sleep, they will survive on lightweight dehydrated rations and melted snow. Unguided, they will need to rely on each other to navigate themselves safely to the bottom of the World.
Along the way, the teams will experience a wilderness that few have had the privilege to see; endless white horizons of ancient snow and ice, big skies where the sun never sets, distant shimmering mountains untouched by man and a silence more complete than any other.
Led by experienced British Polar traveller, Felicity Aston, the teams will include women from the Republic of Cyprus, Ghana, India, Singapore, Brunei Darussalam, New Zealand and Jamaica. The team members will be chosen through a selection process which began with an online application form and will end with a training camp in Scandinavia early in 2009. Many of the women have no previous cold-weather experience.
Sking to the South Pole has become a journey that is a symbol of personal endeavour and achievement. By creating a team from such diverse countries and cultures across the Commonwealth, the expedition has the ability to demonstrate the potential of greater inter-cultural understanding and exchange, while at the same time, highlighting the core values that we all have in common.
The teams will meet each other at the South Pole around New Years Day 2010 - the year of the Commonwealth Games to be held in New Delhi, India. On reaching the South Pole the team members from Cyprus, Ghana, Brunei Darussalam and Jamaica, will be the first representative of their nation (male or female) to ski to the South Pole. The team members from India, Singapore and New Zealand will be the first women of their nation to ski to the South Pole.
Fantastic as these achievements will be, the expedition is about much more than national records. It is hoped that all the women taking part will act as role models on their return, undertaking a programme of lectures and school talks to inspire others in their home-countries to strive to make their ambitions a reality, whatever the challenges they may face.