A big welcome to our newest team member; Kaspersky Lab

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.

A perfect day

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After spending most of yesterday huddled together in the tents, it was great to actually get some skiing done today. In a dramatic contrast to the last 24 hours the weather is truly glorious today. We are picking our way through snow-covered lava fields and it turns out that these are a pretty good substitute for the sort of route-finding we might be doing on the sea ice around the North Pole.

Our tent routines (getting camp pitched) are pretty slick now....but then it feels so much easier now the wind has died. We now all have set roles within our tent teams of three or four. Someone will be the first one in the tent and in charge of the stove/kitchen. The next person is the 'middle-man' who lays out all the mats inside the tent and makes it cosy. Then we have the first 'outside' person who, having secured all the team's sledges and skis comes in the tent to help dig a trench in the vestibule for boots and a cold-trap. And finally we have the second 'outside' person who only comes inside the tent once they have robustly secured it to the ground!

 

Blizzard!

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We've had an exciting night/morning. Pitching our tents last night we picked our spot carefully knowing that a storm was on its way....the weather maps were full of angry looking red and purple blotches (not good). A storm - even a small one - sounds pretty dramatic from inside a tent. The wind makes a racket in the material and snow builds up in mounds on the sides. We are using Hilleberg Keron GT tents because they are built for exactly this kind of weather but every tent depends on being pitched right in order to survive a storm.....this blizzard would be a good test of our pitching skills!

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The storm soon exploited our weaknesses.....and lessons were quickly learned! Our team will never again leave a tiny chink open in the zipped outer doors (because snow gets blown through and leaves a big drift all over the 'kitchen' area!), will be super quick to dig away snow building up on the outside of the tent (which can put extra pressure on the tent poles), and will have the tautest guy lines (the ropes that anchor the tent).

Asma and Misba had a miserable night. In the morning we decided to collapse their tent and bury it under snow to keep it safe while they decamped to another tent to wait out the storm. We spent a cosy (if cramped) morning in two tents keeping ourselves warm and fed while listening for a change in the wind.

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We stuck it out and the wind finally dropped in the afternoon. We emerged from the tents amazed at the change in the weather and the scenery around us that we hadn't been able to see during the storm. We could finally hear each other speak too!

Retrieving Asma and Misba's tent, we dug our sledges and skis out of the snow and moved on to a new place to camp. The excitement of the storm had been draining but the team were on a high. We had all drawn confidence from the fact that - placed in a challenging situation - the team had stayed calm, kept themselves safe and well and found a way to move forward. We don't know what challenges the ski to the North Pole might throw at us - so it is reassuring to know that we have a team that will hold it together when it gets tricky.

The end of the road....

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We have headed north into the interior region of Iceland which is completely empty of all civilisation and infrastructure  - just mountains, glaciers and a LOT of lava. At the end of the road is the last refuge; Hrauneyjar (The Highland Centre). We had a last night of comfort before setting off into heavy snow on our skis with our sledges this morning. There was anticipation within the team to finally be out there - but nerves too.

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Iceland gave us great training conditions - heavy snow and building winds - as we reminded ourselves of how to get the tents up and down as efficiently as possible within our tent teams. We also remembered very quickly how it is to try and keep warm and the difficulties of moving together as a team. It was a slow start with lots of mishap - perhaps inevitable for our first day.

Our training goal was to pitch and strike (put up and down) the tents as often as possible today - and that we did. The winds made it challenging but the lessons of our previous training expedition soon came flooding back and a time of 10-15 minutes from halting on our skis to getting into the tent with the stove on is not bad....at least it is something we can work on.

Then the wind stopped and the Highlands revealed themselves. We pitched our tents for the night surrounded by distant peaks turning pink and mauve. A timely reminder of why we are all doing this!

Popcorn and pee bottles

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Despite the Icelandic weather's best efforts, everyone managed to make it to Reykjavik today - even if a little later than planned. Despite the extra hours of preparation it was still a scramble to get everything done - there is so much to think about....are the tents prepared and rolled ready to be put on the top of the sledges? Have we microwaved the popcorn that forms the majority of our daily snacks for the trail? Do we have enough elastic bungees to secure our bags to the sledges? Do our new goggles fit? Have we remembered pee bottles? And matches? Do we have enough fuel for the stoves? etc

Phew! It's a lot to pack in to just three or four hours. BUT we are now all safely at the start point of our training expedition. Now it is time for some sleep before we set off on skis tomorrow. It looks windy outside and lots of snow....perfect.

Now, if we could only shake off that feeling that we've forgotten something....

An Icelandic welcome....

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Currently the team are travelling from their homes across Europe and the Middle East on their way to Iceland - the small rocky island in the North Atlantic just a stones throw to the south of the Arctic Circle. They are gathering for their final training expedition before departing for the North Pole at the end of March. The week long training will perfect the team's winter camping and ski travel skills, as well as provide an opportunity to try some ice-breaking drills.....and Iceland is preparing some great conditions for the training. At the moment high winds and bad visibility has delayed flights into Iceland's international airport leaving team members stranded all over Europe!

Sleeping Easy

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Ahhhh. What a relief. Multimat, the expert makers of sleeping mats, have agreed to supply the expedition with their superb Extreme XL sleeping mats. By insulating the team members from the cold of the ice they will be sleeping on in the Arctic Ocean on their way to the Pole, Multimat will ensure the team get a good night's sleep every night. Which means they will be fit and rested for each day of skiing. Perfect. Here's to getting plenty of Zzzzzz....

Keeping things clear...

Expert eye protection is critical in the polar environment. Snowblindness can happen quickly, even in overcast conditions. But wearing goggles or sunglasses can be a real pain if they fog up and/or ice over all the time.

That's why we're delighted to have earned the support of @Bloceyewear who will be providing the team with superior polarised goggles and sunglasses with anti-fog, anti-ice technology. Yay!

Felicity in Bloc Eyewear goggles - photo by Ari Magg

Felicity in Bloc Eyewear goggles - photo by Ari Magg

Joining a TRIBE

I often get asked about the advantages of modern technology on polar expeditions compared to the 'heroic age' of polar expeditions 100 years ago. One of the biggest advantages in my opinion is our knowledge of nutrition. Every expedition runs off its stomach - and I've got it wrong on enough expeditions in the past to know how true that is!

In order to make sure that we get nutrition right on this expedition, we are fortunate to have the support of TRIBE. They take a personalised approach to sports nutrition, tailoring their nutrition packs to different activities and levels. TRIBE is not just a company, it is a community, and one that we are delighted to be part of. weareTRIBE.co

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Ready for launch?

So, we've been a bit quiet of late but that's not because we haven't been super-busy behind the scenes preparing for the North Pole next April.

The whole team have been working hard gathering the support needed to make an expedition happen, forging alliances with some great partners that we are thrilled to be working with.

All will be revealed soon! We are currently working on the full launch of the expedition to come in the New Year alongside a relaunch of the all-new website.....can't wait!

In the meantime enjoy the podcasts and updates from the team on Facebook, Twitter and here on the website in English, French, Slovenian, Greek and Arabic!

Summit To Eat

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Any expedition runs on its stomach and food is not just important for nutrition, it is a source of moral too! No-one wants to live off of porridge and frozen cubes of butter - it would make anyone miserable. So we are very pleased to have earned the support of British company 'Summit To Eat' who produce yummy meals in a lightweight and convenient (for camping) format. What is also great is that the ethos behind the company is about encouraging everyone to get out and have an adventure....something we believe in too!

Here is what Summit To Eat had to say about the expedition on their website: https://www.summittoeat.com/w/adventures/euro-arabian-expedition-women/

We look forward to munching our way to the 'summit' of the globe - the North Pole!

Expedition Film: Watch the teaser...

We are extremely excited to have award-winning Producer and Director, Holly Morris, following the expedition team's journey in order to make a documentary about our adventure.

Holly and her small crew have already accompanied the team on both training expeditions to film our progress and you can see a brief teaser of the footage so far on the home page. Holly and her crew already feel like part of our extended expedition family!

Holly specializes in making films that explore the lives of 'contemporary, risk-taking women around the world' and her most recent film, 'The Babushkas of Chernobyl' was critically acclaimed, winning awards at several international film festivals. It is well worth a watch if you get the chance to seek it out online...

The documentary will be released sometime in 2018/19 but in the meantime enjoy the teaser and we look forward to sharing more footage as we go...

Outreach !

This month the team has been busy talking to lots of people about our expeditions and our plans. In particular, team members have been out and about giving talks and answering questions from schools and youth groups across all sectors of society. This is one of the most fun parts of being part of a project like this and there are lots of plans to do more in the future.

If you would like a team member to come and visit your group or school, do get in touch. Perhaps you might also like to become a Virtual Team Member and get a talk from the team live from their tent in the Arctic! If so, take a look at our shop...

Susan answering questions from pupils in a school in France.

Susan answering questions from pupils in a school in France.

Misba speaking to a youth group in the UK about spending time in the outdoors.

Misba speaking to a youth group in the UK about spending time in the outdoors.

North Pole opens for business

In order to access the North Pole next year, we will be relying on a runway that is built annually at a floating ice station called Barneo. Situated on the ice around 100km from the North Pole, the station drifts with the sea ice it sits on and so is never in the same place for very long. The runway, which is an area of smoothed ice, has to be strong enough to withstand the weight of aircraft landing.

Barneo has just opened for the 2017 season and the first teams heading for the North Pole have already arrived at the station. As this will be us next year, we are watching closely.

Each year the sea ice situation in the high Arctic becomes ever more precarious, so we are hoping that a successful season at Barneo this year will mean good things for us next year too. You can see how much the station drifts day by day on the charts posted on Barneo's facebook page @BarneoRU.

It's also interesting to see the complex logistics involved in setting up the camp each year.

WINGS Flag #23

The team are delighted to be carrying WINGS Worldquest Flag number 23.

This flag has already been carried to Antarctica, so we are honoured to be taking it with us to the polar region at the other extremity of the globe. Before carrying the flag to the North Pole, it seemed only fitting that it accompany us to both the Middle East and Europe. So here we are on our training expedition in Oman, proudly flying the flag in the desert for women explorers and scientists around the world, past and future.

Wings Worldquest is a US-based organisation that recognises and supports extraordinary women in science and exploration. Through its Fellows and Flag Carrier programs, WINGS creates community and showcases the groundbreaking work of women scientists and explorers, whose discoveries advance scientific inquiry, stimulate conservation, and lead to better understanding of our world. Felicity was inducted as a Wings Fellow in 2014 as a recipient of the WINGS Women of Discovery Courage Award. You can find out more about Wings and the work of Wings Fellows on its website www.wingsworldquest.org

The Euro-Arabian North Pole Expedition Team and flag carriers #23: Misba (UK), Susan (France), Felicity (Expedition Leader), Mariam (Saudi Arabia), Ida (Sweden), Steph (Cyprus), Natasa (Slovenia), Lamees (Kuwait) and Anisa (Oman).

The Euro-Arabian North Pole Expedition Team and flag carriers #23: Misba (UK), Susan (France), Felicity (Expedition Leader), Mariam (Saudi Arabia), Ida (Sweden), Steph (Cyprus), Natasa (Slovenia), Lamees (Kuwait) and Anisa (Oman).

Happy International Women's Day!

We dedicate our thoughts, support and admiration today to any woman, anywhere in the world who is reaching beyond the expectations of others to follow her own path in life. To do so often needs courage and perseverance.

We also remember and applaud the many women around the globe who have risked everything to blaze a trail that others can follow. It is only by continuing to question the status quo that we can shape the future.

Women are already out there achieving, discovering, creating and influencing, and have been for centuries - let's make them more visible in the public consciousness.

Back to Muscat and goodbye to Oman

The long drive back to the capital of Muscat demonstrated just how far we had come in our walk across two differently coloured deserts.

Above: Ida (Sweden), Steph (Cyprus), Mariam (Saudi Arabia) and Lamees (Kuwait)

Above: Ida (Sweden), Steph (Cyprus), Mariam (Saudi Arabia) and Lamees (Kuwait)

We had a bit more space in the vehicles on our way back but found that we left trails of sand behind us wherever we went as it fell out of our clothes, our hair, our shoes and our equipment. I imagine between us we'll be taking quite a bit of sand accidentally home with us too.

We will certainly be taking the desert away with us in our memories. It has been a truly spectacular week. Not only have we all further embedded the skills that we began to learn in Iceland but we have become much closer as a group. Our journey across Oman gave us a chance to get to know each others lives and perspectives, giving rise to many fascinating discussions that I'm sure we will all go home mentally digesting. We also had the chance to see something of the lives of desert Bedouin as well as urban Omani's which has led to many new strands of thought in European and Arabian team members alike.

After the peace of the desert, Muscat seemed dazzling as we arrived in the city. We had time to visit the evening suq in the old part of Muscat before heading out to dinner at Anisa's favourite Omani restaurant. It was a nice way to say goodbye, not only to each other but also to fabulous Oman.