A mbassador for the Richmond-based Victoria Foundation, Jan Meek and her all-women South Pole Expeditionary team, trek into global diplomacy.
It is ten years since Jan Meek the Arctic explorer and Europe’s only holder of four Guinness World Records completed her trek to geographic North Pole playing cricket at minus 28C with members of an Indian Navy expedition. In December this year Jan will lead an all-women’s expedition to the South Pole. For the last two weeks Jan with Tanvi and Madhvi, the two Indian members of her Polar-Maidens, all women’s expedition to the South Pole, have been training together with the other team members Aileen Crean from Ireland and Caroline Geraerts. It is all part of their intensive preparation for the 120 mile trek at temperatures that could reach minus 40C across the Antarctic’s unforgiving ice and snow in chilling gusting winds.
For this adventure Jan has put together a team of ‘ordinary women’ from 23 to 73. “We are not soldiers, professional athletes or celebrities. We have come together to do something less ordinary and demonstrate how far women have come since Scott’s 1912 expedition when the idea of women contemplating the trek would have been unheard of.”
“We were thrilled that in his State of the Nation address the Indian Prime Minister singled out Tanvi and Madhvi and our Polar Maidens expedition as examples of Indian enterprise. We are now part of the Living Bridge Initiative – UK soft power to promote closer trade, investment and cultural relations between our two great countries. Indian business and individuals have responded with pledges of funds and sponsorship we hope we will get the same enthusiastic and financial support in the UK.”
Since Jan gained her first Guinness World record in 1997 she has spoken to over 700 schools and voluntary organisations. The Polar-Maidens expedition will raise funds for Jan’s Inspirationelle Foundation which aims to support women of all ages wanting to do something extra–ordinary.
Hauling tyres along the rugged highland terrain and coastline, intensive work outs at Zeus Gym with Mr Europe, Roy Mclean, is just part of the preparation needed for trekking and skiing for up to 20 days in extreme conditions of cold at altitude. Earlier in the year training in Norway has provided reminders of the conditions they will face. An additional week in Scotland with their expert guide has been another part of their preparation. For Jan each week is a mix of hauling tyres, supervised gym work with 12 and 16 kilo kettle bells.
With a 50-year-age range across the team, monitoring the physical and mental impact of 12 hour days skiing and trekking in extreme conditions for up to 20 days before reaching the Pole, is important. How does a 73-year-old deal with conditions compared to a 23-year-old, how will a breast cancer survivor in her fifties react, or a 30 year old who regularly tackles the Himalayas compare with the granddaughter of Tom Crean – the hero of Scott and Shackleton’s expeditions. It will also aim to be the most environmentally friendly expedition to the South Pole – planting trees to offset their carbon footprint using only recyclable equipment and re-enforcing the message of the need to preserve this unique pristine environment.