Wendy Searle’s Solo Race Across Antarctica

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Animal Dynamics was one of Wendy Searle’s first sponsors in her attempt to break the women’s world speed record for skiing solo and unaided from the Antarctic coast to the South Pole. For around 12 hours a day, Wendy treks over ice, around crevasses and sastrugi and through katabatic winds, at temperatures reaching -40 degrees Celsius. She covers an average of 27km a day without any external assistance, carrying everything she needs in her pulk, including food, shelter and clothing. There are only six women that have ever managed to complete the solo journey. The current record is just under 39 days for the 1130km expedition. Sastrugi: wave-like ridges caused by winds on the surface of hard snowImages: Wendy Searle, https://southpole2020.com

Keeping the weight of the loaded pulk as low as possible, whilst still carrying enough supplies to sustain her, is one of Wendy’s biggest challenges. Every gram of weight saved adds up quickly over thousands of steps every day for weeks. When Wendy came to speak to us a few months ago, this is something we were keen to help her with. The Animal Dynamics team, especially those working on the Skeeter project, face similar challenges daily, trying to keep the weight of vehicle components as low as possible. 

“I DON’T WANT TO GIVE TOO MUCH AWAY ABOUT THE DETAIL OF HOW THEY HELPED BUT – GIVEN THAT SOME OF THE ANIMAL DYNAMICS TEAM WORK ON MINIATURE DRONES, WHERE SAVING WEIGHT IS CRITICAL – THERE WERE MANY GOOD IDEAS FOR HOW TO BE LIGHTER, LOTS OF THOUGHTS ABOUT MARGINAL GAINS.”

Wendy has to carry enough food, clothes and shelter to last her expeditionImages: Wendy Searle, https://southpole2020.com

Embarking on such a physically demanding expedition in an extreme environment means efficiency is paramount. One way we were able to help Wendy was by making some recommendations on how to increase the efficiency of her pulk pulling by reducing energy waste and ensuring the efficient transfer of forward thrust through the pulk as she pulls. 

“I’VE IMPLEMENTED A COUPLE OF THE SUGGESTIONS AND LOOKED AT BESPOKE ADDITIONS TO MY PULK. SOME OF THEM ARE WHACKY – BUT SOMETIMES YOU NEED ANOTHER PERSPECTIVE (AND MORE CREATIVE MINDS) TO LOOK AT THINGS DIFFERENTLY.”

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Wendy aims to raise £50,000 for two charities (ABF the soldier’s charity and the youth adventure trust), gather 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.

 Wendy is now 15 days in on her epic journey. To follow her progress, keep an eye on her news page. We are all behind you Wendy!

FOR MORE INFO: VISIT SOUTHPOLE2020.COM