Food!

Everyone gets obsessed by food on expedition. We will be eating very well. We have a four course meal for the evenings....instant soup, followed by noodles, then a Summit to Eat main and a Summit to Eat desert (and if we have room, a Tribe protein bar as a petit four).

We've been trying out some of the Summit to Eat Meals - and they are good! The Chicken Fajitas are a bit of a favourite already. But most popular of all are the freeze dried berries that we've made into a trail mix....blueberries, strawberries and raspberries....Mmmmm.

It took us all day to sort it all into bags for each tent team and then get it in the sledges. We have about 1kg of food per person per day. It's a lot of weight in the sledges right now but at least it gets a little bit lighter every day!

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The Warehouse

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Today we went to collect our skis and the last remaining sledges. Our skis have odd bindings but they are designed to enable us to wear big, padded boots while using the skis, rather than regular ski boots which would be too cold.

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Having our skis and boots - and seeing the sledges packed and lined up outside our HQ - made it all seems very real. We are almost there!

First steps on ice

No, not the Arctic Ocean. But still, it was ice.

Today the BBC film crew wanted some beauty shots of the team pulling sledges on ice...and they got not just beautiful but spectacular! It was great for the team too - our first tentative steps onto ice, albeit just some ice adjacent to the coast of Longyearbyen beach. We will be becoming much more familiar with ice in all its forms over the next month.

The team looked great, strung out in a long line - but they weren't the most interesting sight on the beach....that place was taken by a group of French students that passed them before jumping into the water for a swim.

We intend to do absolutely zero swimming of any kind on our trip!

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Spreading the word....

 A quick selfie before the professional takes over....

A quick selfie before the professional takes over....

With all team members in Longyearbyen it was time to start banging the drum about our imminent departure! We'd like as many people as possible to share in our adventure and follow our progress so we need to shout about our expedition a little bit.

 Filming with the BBC

Filming with the BBC

Last night we had a lightning quick photoshoot with Esther Horvath, renowned conservation photographer who specialises in the Arctic Ocean. She had literally just stepped off a flight from Greenland where she had spent three months at Station Nord, a Danish military station in the very North of Greenland that supports scientific work.

Today we have spent time with the BBC recording in Arabic as well as English. We'll be doing more tomorrow and perhaps even a live radio broadcast....we've been well trained after making 15 episodes of Polar Exposure!

More team members arrive....

We were super happy to see Misba last night after her long day of travel from Manchester, UK. As she settled into the cold and we sorted out the equipment she brought with her, four more team members were travelling North towards us from their respective countries; Olga from Russia, Anisa from Oman, Steph from London and Lamees from Kuwait. Welcome Ladies!

But if we think our logistics are complicated, spare a thought for the team setting up the floating ice station and runway known as 'Barneo'. They currently have two helicopters flying north across the lonely Arctic Ocean from central Siberia. They will fly to around 87 degrees before running out of fuel and landing on the ice. A plane will be called in to make a fuel drop to the helicopters so that they can continue on to a spot around 89 degrees. They will choose the best spot before calling in the plane a second time, this time to drop tractors so that they can clear a runway. It's an impressive operation!

 Our final four team member meeting en route to Longyearbyen.

Our final four team member meeting en route to Longyearbyen.

 The film crew (Holly and Ingebjorg) meeting Misba off the plane last night....

The film crew (Holly and Ingebjorg) meeting Misba off the plane last night....

Divine inspiration

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Today we found a very special spot in Longyearbyen to record our latest podcast. Slightly up the side of the valley with a great view of the town is Longyearbyen Church. It is a very pretty wooden church with a large reception room - warm, cosy, quiet and with the best views in town of the surrounding mountains - a perfect setting for our first Arctic podcast.

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Take a listen at Polar Exposure episode #15 recorded by Asma, Mariam, Natasa, Susan and Felicity discussing fears of the expedition to come and our impressions of Longyearbyen.....

Polar Exposure Episode #15

Sea Ice

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From year to year the Arctic Ocean Sea Ice conditions can vary dramatically. One year teams traveling to the North Pole might report vast pans of dead smooth ice with hardly any obstacles, while other years skiers experience ice that is on the move, clashing together to form pressure ridges or splitting apart to form wide leads of open water.

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The first people to see what the ice is like on the ground will be the teams setting up ice station barneo (we heard today that the helicopters have finally left the mainland and are headed north to scout for a runway location on the ice...). Until they arrive all we have is the sea ice data gathered by satellite. In January a graph was released showing that the average sea ice extent was the lowest for that month in the satellite record (since 1979). The data for March showed much the same thing....this time the average sea ice extent was the second lowest for the month in the satellite record.

However, sea ice extent is the area covered. There is also data about concentration and this - for us - is slightly better news. The Snow and Ice Data Centre provides daily updates or sea ice concentration in the Arctic Ocean and it shows 100% concentration around the Pole. Could this mean a good year?

You can see the data for yourself at:   http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/

The advance team is growing!

Mariam arrived in Longyearbyen from Saudi Arabia today. It was a relief to see her safely off the bus from the airport alongside three big bags of supplies for the team rations (Thank you Panda Supermarket!). So that makes six out of 11 team members.

BUT we are already a much larger team than that! The POWER team are Audrey and Jessica; the documentary team of three are here too - and soon there will be more. Slowly, slowly we are taking over this town!

As for the advance team, who have now been here five days, we practically feel like locals!

Looking forward to more arrivals in the coming days.

Getting some help...

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Between us we have pretty good problem-solving skills that will get us through most challenges but faced with sewing fur protection onto the hoods of 11 jackets, plus plenty of large embroidered patches to display our wonderful sponsors, it was clear that we needed the help of a professional!

Today we delivered all 11 jackets plus our three Hilleberg tents needing their snow skirts attached to Randi, Longyearbyen's  expert seamstress. We are very much looking forward to seeing the finished jackets which will then look like proper explorer clothing!

POWER!

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POWER stands for 'Physiological Adaptations in Women During a North Pole Expedition', the study being undertaken by top human physiologist Audrey Bergouignan from the Universite de Strasbourg in France. We, the expedition team, are her study subjects.

Audrey has travelled to Longyearbyen in order to carry out baseline tests on the team members and to fit them with all the monitors that they will wear during the expedition and which will collect the vital data for the study.

Today the team members in Longyearbyen gathered in the hospital to have blood taken, to have their fat scanned and their resting metabolic rate measured. For some, giving blood was the hardest part (the record is no blood in five attempts!) while for others it was laying still - no talking, no phone - for a full 25 minutes for the metabolic test.

Afterwards we were fitted with just some of the monitors we will be wearing - a small battery-like monitor taped to our chest, another in a wrist band - but most alarming was the 'tag' placed on our upper arms which inserts a fine needle into the skin layer and records our blood sugar on a microchip. It will stay put for 14 days!

Up nest will be a monitor that we wear around our waists, a heart rate monitor and a watch that is not a watch but a clever gizmo recording our circadian rhythms....oh, and learning how to spit into a test tube.

If you would like to known more about why we are putting ourselves through this, take a look at our science pages where Audrey explains how little data exists about the physiological response of women in extreme environments and why that matters for future interplanetary exploration.

Essential explorer skills: sewing!

A day spent doing all those jobs that are small but vital - and very time-consuming.

In the morning we sorted through the poles for our wonderful Hilleberg tents to make sure they hadn't been bent or damaged in transit - they hadn't - and made a few personal touches; adding extra long easy-pull tabs to the zips, installing elasticated washing lines, that sort of thing.

Then we turned our attention to the sledges, making traces that attach the sledges to the harnesses and mending any small nicks in the sledge bags being reused from our training and past expeditions.

In the afternoon we went through our 4 layers of clothing again, making small adjustments as we went...a pocket added there, a bigger size decided on here, a touch of elastic and a bit of extra padding. We added colour coding to everything - even our socks - because we are a team of 11 with identical kit living in three tents and because wearing one set of our own clothes day-in, day-out is one thing - accidentally wearing someone else's sweaty socks is another...

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Berghaus visit

 The advance team with Carolyn from Berghaus

The advance team with Carolyn from Berghaus

The team were visited in Longyearbyen today by Carolyn and Marc from Women's Product Development at Berghaus today. They came to check that the expedition was fully kitted out with windproof jackets, fleeces, insulation and the all-important bobble hat, ready for the sea ice adventure to come.

It was also a chance to sit down and talk about our experiences with women's outdoor kit. Today 56% of outdoor clothing purchases are made by women. With that kind of buying power the hope is that we are approaching a new age of women's gear in which the 'shrink it and pink it' attitude of the past is consigned to history!

It was great to be listened too by those developing tomorrows clothing and to have some input into the next generation of gear for women in the outdoors.

It was also great to try out our new gear...ESPECIALLY the bobble hats!

Expedition HQ in Longyearbyen

The 'Advance Party' of Natasa, Susan, Asma and Felicity have arrived in Longyearbyen, capital of Svalbard and the half-way stop between Europe and the North Pole. It is here that the team will catch a flight to the floating ice station near 89 degrees North.

For now they have set up in a workspace and have started sorting through all the clothing, camping equipment and gear that came with them. There is lots to do before the rest of the team arrives in the coming weeks, and before they take the next step closer to the North Pole.

Longyearbyen is a nice place to be in the meantime. It is crisp and clear weather, -17C, surrounded by Arctic scenery....and just a little closer to the North Pole than being at home!

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Congratulations Misba!

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Wonderful news that UK team member, Misba Khan, has been made a 2018 Churchill Fellow.

The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust is a UK based organisation that awards a number of Fellowships each year to those who are embarking on travel that will enable them to bring back knowledge and experience that will be of benefit to UK society. The Fellowships are awarded along with a substantial grant to help fund the travel.

Misba was made a Fellow for her role in the Women's Euro-Arabian North Pole Expedition 2018 - an experience that on many levels will enable her to bring back knowledge that will be of benefit to society in the UK; from the greater cultural understanding she will gain from working with the international team, to the expedition skills she will learn, to the first-hand knowledge of the Arctic Ocean. All of this will feed back into UK society through Misba's work as a Chaplain in Manchester, her enthusiastic membership of the Ramblers and through her outreach work speaking to young people, women's groups and events that focus on the British Muslim community.

The team agree unanimously, that Misba is an inspiring asset to the expedition, a wonderful representative of the UK and will, no doubt, be an excellent influencer in her community and nationwide. We're very proud of you Misba!

Expedition Leader, Felicity Aston, is a 2008 Churchill Fellow. The support of the Fellowship and the Trust was fundamental in the founding of the Kaspersky Lab Commonwealth Antarctic Expedition that saw Felicity lead a team of 8 women from around the Commonwealth to the South Pole in 2009.

For more information about the Trust and the next round of applications to become a Fellow see the website at www.wcmt.org.uk

Win your trip to the North Pole!

How would you like to join Kaspersky Lab CEO Eugene Kaspersky on a unique trip to the North Pole?

To commemorate Kaspersky Lab's support for the Women's Euro-Arabian North Pole Expedition, Kaspersky Lab are offering one EU citizen the chance to accompany Eugene when he meets and congratulates the expedition team at the finish line.

The winner will be flown to Svalbard in the Arctic Circle, then to the remote Barneo ice camp at latitude 89 degrees North, before boarding a helicopter and flying to the geographic North Pole.

The prize is valued at €20,000 and includes all travel, accommodation and meal expenses, as well as equipment hire.

This is a very special once-in-a-lifetime experience. Win it, and you'll never forget it..

So if you're an EU resident, in good health, aged 18-years or older, and ready to fly between April 10 and 16 2018, enter now. It couldn't be easier to get involved!

https://www.kaspersky.com/about/sponsorships/win-your-trip-to-the-north-pole

 

A big welcome to our newest team member; Kaspersky Lab

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Last week Kaspersky Lab announced its support of the Women's Euro-Arabian North Pole Expedition 2018.

The company has previously supported two of Expedition Leader, Felicity Aston’s previous polar adventures – the Kaspersky Commonwealth Antarctic Expedition in 2009, and the Kaspersky ONE Transantarctic Expedition in 2011 - as well as team member Olga Rumyantseva who in 2013 undertook the Kaspersky 7 Volcanoes Expedition, becoming the first woman in history to solo-climb the highest volcano summits in each of the seven continents, within one calendar year.

Kaspersky Lab CEO Eugene Kaspersky – who will fly to the North Pole to meet and congratulate the women upon their arrival – said the company was proud to continue its support of inspiring female adventurers like Aston and her team.

“For me, arctic adventuring isn’t just an exciting challenge, it’s a powerful motivation. People like Felicity and her team – determined and passionate – genuinely inspire me. They’re also role models for the younger generation – they help them to really go after what they want in life.”

Newly appointed Chief Business Officer Alex Moiseev added: “As a company, full of bright female minds who have challenged the status quo to become coders, programmers and cybersecurity researchers, we want to encourage and empower more young women to be brave and do the unexpected – whether that’s reaching the North Pole, or learning to code and becoming a cyber-defender.

 

About Kaspersky Lab

Kaspersky Lab is a global cybersecurity company celebrating its 20-year anniversary in 2017. Kaspersky Lab’s deep threat intelligence and security expertise is constantly transforming into security solutions and services to protect businesses, critical infrastructure, governments and consumers around the globe. The company’s comprehensive security portfolio includes leading endpoint protection and a number of specialized security solutions and services to fight sophisticated and evolving digital threats. Over 400 million users are protected by Kaspersky Lab technologies and we help 270,000 corporate clients protect what matters most to them. Learn more at www.kaspersky.com.

Next Stop North Pole...

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As the team said goodbye to each other yesterday at the end of our final training expedition there was a look of realisation in everyone's eyes that the next time we meet will be in Longyearbyen and all this theory that we have been practicing in Iceland will be very real. We have a lot of work to do between now and then - both as a team and as individuals - but it is also exciting. After two years of planning and preparation we have a solid team and an awesome support network of sponsors and experts - not forgetting the all important audience through social media, your enthusiasm makes a huge difference!

And so, the countdown begins!

@Kaspersky Lab

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Icebreaking

We were almost at the end of the training expedition and there had been no sign of the threatened 'dip' into icy water....the team thought they had had a narrow escape....and then we passed a stream.

There wasn't much water, but enough to provide the team members with a sudden shock of exposure to the cold. On our way to the North Pole we will be spending time on a thinly frozen ocean - so it is a prudent drill to practise what we would do if we fell into water.

The team threw themselves into it (quite literally) with gusto.