Forest Group, County & National Events


Forest Group - Spring Meeting - April 23rd St George's Hall, Bewdley

A packed St George's Hall listened intently to a fascinating and inspiring talk by Major Sandy Hennis. She is a reservist officer with the 37 Signal regiment and was one of a pioneering team of six women who last winter crossed the Antarctic on skis, using muscle power alone. It was a tough undertaking - two years ago 250 women applied and eventually a squad of 22 began a winter survival skills course which included time with the Norwegian Army. After rigorous training expeditions a final team of six was selected. The applicants had to leap into frozen lakes with skis and rucksacks, be suspended above crevasses, drag tyres behind them and take part in intensive training in the final months, including pyschological preparation. The Ice Maiden expedition was also an opportunity to collect ground breaking medical data for women, measuring the effects of extreme polar endurance on the female body, which will help in future research projects. Each individual's vital signs were constantly monitored and relayed to the UK. No team of women had attempted this feat before, they covered 1700 km in 60 days, pulling 80kg sledges. They were only resupplied twice so had to pull enough supplies for 600km, temperatures would drop to -40C, wind speeds would reach 60mph and sometimes there would be zero visibility. They ate 5,500 calories per day, stopping only for 5 minute intervals during the day to snack or use the she-wee and had hot meals for breakfast and supper. They had to cover 28km per day as the start was delayed by bad weather. Despite the isolation during the day (strong winds, being well wrapped up against the cold and walking in single file made it impossible to talk) every evening they would gather in one of the three tents to discuss the day and iron out any problems. The result was an incredibly strong, mutually supportive and well motivated team. At the end of Sandy's excellent and entertaining talk, accompanied by one of the medics who had been the dietician, there were many questions from the floor, all of us very impressed and stimulated by the adventure.