A POLAR adventurer from Salisbury is launching her mission to break the women’s world speed record for skiing solo and unaided from the Antarctic coast to the South Pole.

Wendy will officially launch her expedition at a send-off event this evening at Salisbury Cathedral School.

The previous record for the 1,130km race is just under 39 days. Only six women have ever completed the journey solo.

For around 12 hours a day, Wendy, will pull over 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.

Wendy said: "I’m just an ordinary person, I’m 42, I have four children, and I’m training for this trip while working full time as a civil servant. Until five years ago, when I started providing logistical support to polar missions, I’d never considering crossing Antarctica, and I didn’t even know how to ski. I’ve never been to Antarctica before, and the closest I’ve come to this challenge is skiing 563km across the Greenland ice sheet last year. Really, if I can do this, anybody can.”

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

Wendy aims to raise £50,000 for charities, 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.

She added: “It’s vital that we study the Antarctic and educate people about why this is such an important part of the Earth’s environment, which means the current prohibition on mining in Antarctica must stay in place. I understand what an enormous privilege it will be to go to this special place – I’ve used carbon offset to ensure my journey has minimal impact.

“We also need more scientific research into women’s endurance. The evidence is building that women have longer endurance than men. For example, earlier this year British fell runner Jasmine Paris beat all competitors, male and female, in the 431km Montane Spine Race, shattering the course record by 12 hours while also expressing breast milk for her baby during the race."

Sue Sljivic, one of RSK’s founding directors, said: “As an environmental consultancy we’re keenly aware of the importance of protecting Antarctica the world’s last existing great wilderness and a continent twice the size of Australia.

“Wendy is a truly inspiring person and our company’s ethos is very much to support women in scientific exploration. It’s sadly still harder to attract sponsorship as a female polar explorer, and we want to change that.

“The research in which Wendy is participating will be invaluable; there are currently not enough data on the performance of solo women, which is why NASA is tracking her psychological journey through diary entries as part of its research into conditions facing astronauts. The metabolic chamber that she’ll go into before and after the expedition will also help research on how patients absorb nutrients during longer stays in hospital.”