After enduring temperatures as low as minus 40 degrees F (minus 40 degrees C), traversing deadly crevasse fields, and pulling sledges weighing as much as 176 pounds, a group of British soldiers made history on Jan. 20 by becoming the first all-female team to cross the Antarctic under sheer muscle power.
"It was really key for me to be part of an all-female team because I really want to inspire other women — specifically women — to get out there and do things they wouldn't normally be doing, or think would be possible," Major Sandy Hennis of the Royal Signals told the BBC. "We set what was an impossible challenge and achieved it, so anything is possible."
Dubbed "The Ice Maidens," the six women began their 1,000-mile journey on Nov. 20 at the edge of the Ross Ice Shelf and concluded it 61 days later at the aptly named Hercules Inlet. The expedition was originally estimated to take between 75-90 days, but good weather and sheer determination by everyone involved absolutely crushed all expectations.
While the team was unsupported, save for two resupply drops spaced every 370 miles, they did lend their support to making a difference for people back home. During the expedition, the team used the publicity surrounding their epic adventure to raise thousands for non-profits Breast Cancer Care and the Army Cadet Force Association.
"I'm just so incredibly proud of the team," Major Nics Wetherill of the Royal Army Medical Corps said after crossing the finish line. "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."
Despite the harsh conditions swirling around them, sometimes at speeds exceeding 60 mph, the women still found time to embrace the pristine and untouched nature of the frozen continent.
"I have spent the last few days trying to imprint this beautiful landscape in my mind. We have called it home for close to two months now and I will, in a strange way, miss it a lot," Major Natalie Taylor reflected. "The snow sparkles like there is a layer of pearls on the surface and everywhere you look there is beauty and stillness. The photos just don't do it justice."