A polar adventurer and mum of four today launches her mission to cross Antarctica completely alone and unaided, in record time.

“Ordinary person”, civil servant and mum of four Wendy Searle, from Salisbury, aims to break the women’s world speed record for skiing solo and unsupported from the Antarctic coast to the South Pole. Only a handful of women have ever completed the journey solo.

The purpose of the trip is to raise £50,000 for charities, collect data for NASA and Manchester University about the science of women’s solo endurance, and to help raise awareness of the environmental vulnerability of Antarctica.

Chosen charities are ABF The Soldier’s Charity and Youth Adventure Trust, which inspires vulnerable young people through outdoor adventures. Wendy has worked for ABF The Soldier’s Charity for more than seven years, which originally introduced her to the idea of this fundraising journey.

Her interest was sparked about five years ago after she was involved in a group of six Army guys’ journey across the continent. For Wendy, the question for her was if somebody “totally ordinary” could overcome the challenge.

“I couldn’t even ski before I started this journey. I’m not a fulltime adventurer, I’m not from a wealthy background, I have a full-time job – all the normal things that gets in the way of big dreams. Is it possible to make something like that happen?”

Although the trek is a solo journey, safety measures will make sure Wendy crosses the finish line, including satellite phones. She has to make herself known every 24 hours, otherwise she will be saved whether she wants to or not.

“It might be a solo journey, but it hasn’t by any means been a solo effort; I’ve had a tonne of help from all sorts of people” Wendy said.

Wendy’s expedition manager has done three Antarctic journeys and she has been trained by Hannah McKeand, who in 2006 set the record for the fastest journey (man or woman) to the South Pole.

For around 12 hours a day, she will pull more than 80kg of supplies behind her in a sledge over ice, around crevasses, through snow and hurricane-speed winds, covering an average of 27km a day without any external assistance such as food drop-offs.The previous record for the 1,130km race is just under 39 days.

“It’s surprisingly little – when you look at it all in the sledge and think ‘that’s what I’ve got to survive for the next 38 days’, it’s not actually very much. It makes you think about how much you truly need to exist. That is part of the draw of these polar journeys – surviving, existing, making progress – you’re so in the moment in an environment where everything is about staying alive.”

Wendy said her teenage children are “pretty cool” about her going on a solo trek through one of the most remote areas of the world.
“They’ve been on the journey themselves whether they like it or not and they’ve been fantastic. They’ve seen all the work that’s gone into it and I know they are keen for me to succeed and are secretly quite proud of me I think.”

Wendy is officially launching her expedition at an event tonight (Friday, November 1) from 6 to 8pm at the Salisbury Cathedral School, 1 The Close, SP1 2EQ. The send-off event is to highlight and thank all those people who helped Wendy get to this point – family, friends, colleagues and sponsors, as well as providing information on how to follow Wendy’s journey.

The funding for her trip has been provided by sponsorship from UK-based environmental and engineering consultancy RSK, and others.

For more information, visit southpole2020.com, for updates and to donate to the charities.