In 2009 she led the 38-day, 911km Kaspersky Lab Commonwealth Antarctic Expedition, the largest and most international women’s team ever to ski to the South Pole. The team included women from Brunei Darussalam, Cyprus, Ghana, India, Jamaica, Singapore, New Zealand. Felicity was responsible for selecting and training this diverse, multicultural team of ‘ordinary’ women for one of the most arduous journeys on Earth. Her book about the expedition, ‘Call of the White: Taking the World to the South Pole’ was published in March 2011 and was a finalist in the Banff Mountain Book Competition.
Previously, Felicity has led several other notable expeditions including the first British women’s crossing of Greenland, a 700km winter crossing of Lake Baikal in a Siberian winter and an adventurous expedition in Iceland for young people with a brain injury. She was also part of the first, ever, all-female team to complete the Polar Challenge, a 500km endurance race to the magnetic north pole.
Trained as a Physicist and Meteorologist, Felicity’s first polar experience was as a scientist with the British Antarctic Survey. Based for three years on a remote research station on the Antarctic Peninsula, her job was to monitor climate and ozone.
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At the end of November 2011, Felicity set off from the coast of Antarctica on the Ross Ice Shelf to cross the entire continent on skis by herself. Ahead of her was a 1744km (1084 mile) journey through the Transantarctic mountains, across the Polar Plateau to the South Pole then on to the far coast of Antarctica. The physical challenges of the 59-day journey are astonishing but it is the mental hardships that Felicity describes that are the most memorable. The crushing solitude and emotional turmoil that she experienced on a daily basis resulted in an appreciation of the details of the environment around her and a rather strange relationship with the sun!
Commonwealth Women’s Antarctic Expedition
On December 29th 2009, Felicity Aston arrived at the South Pole with an international team of 7 women after skiing 900km from the coast of Antarctica in 38 days. The really remarkable part is that just 8 months previously many of the women in the team had never seen snow, never put on a pair of skis, never experienced sub-zero temperatures and never spent the night in a tent.
Representing the Commonwealth countries of Brunei Darussalam, Cyprus, Ghana, India, Jamaica, New Zealand, Singapore and the United Kingdom, this was the most unconventional team ever to face the extreme hazards of Antarctica. During this talk Felicity tells the fascinating and inspiring story of finding the women and creating a team as well as their courageous journey to the bottom of the world.
Living in Antarctica
For 3 years Felicity Aston worked as a meteorologist on one of Antarctica’s main scientific research stations. Completely isolated from the rest of the world for much of the year, with a station crew of just 20 people, she monitored long-term changes in climate and the ozone layer. Packed with stunning images, Felicity’s presentation creates a tangible impression of what it is like to live in such a hostile but spell-binding environment. Her stories describe the sometimes bizarre station routines, the charismatic wildlife and the human dramas as well as providing an insightful explanation of the globally significant science being undertaken.
In 2006 Felicity Aston led the first British women’s crossing of the Greenland Ice-cap. Called the Arctic Foxes, the 4-woman team skied 560km from the western edge of the Greenland ice to the mountains of the east coast. The team planned to use power kites to aid their return journey back across the ice sheet but calm weather forced the women to travel an additional 500km on foot. Packed with high drama and nail-biting anecdotes, Felicity describes how the journey turned into a desperate race against time and resulted in a close shave on thin ice...
Marsden and the Miracle Herb
In 1891 a young British woman set out on horseback alone into the remote forest of north-eastern Siberia. Kate Marsden wasn't an explorer but a nurse on a mission to find a herb that was rumoured to cure the most feared disease of the age - leprosy. She returned to claims that her journey was a fake but was Kate Marsden telling the truth? And did she find the miracle herb? 115 years later, Felicity Aston travelled to Siberia to find Kate Marsden heralded as a national hero in the remote former Soviet republic of Sakha. Using images and audio clips, Felicity takes the audience on an investigative journey along the frozen Vilyuy River, encountering shamans, herbalists, historians and biologists, to unravel the mystery of Kate Marsden and the miracle herb.
Racing to the Pole
In 2005 Felicity Aston was part of the first all-female team to complete the Polar Challenge, an annual race across Arctic Canada to the 1996 position of the North Magnetic Pole. Competing against teams of ex-Royal Marine Commandos, Olympic rowers and professional rugby players, Felicity’s team, the Pink Lady Polecats, were definitely the underdogs. Faced with unpromising odds, the women had to employ radical tactics to stay in the race. With humour and honesty, Felicity describes the trials and triumphs of the team as they battled to finish the race, eventually arriving at the Pole in 6th place out of 16.
Old Man Baikal
Holding one fifth of the planets fresh water, Lake Baikal is the deepest and oldest lake in the world. Over 1,800 species of flora and fauna living in its waters are found nowhere else on Earth and during winter its surface freezes to form a thick layer of beautifully transparent ice. Hidden deep in the Siberian wilderness, close to the Mongolian border, few people live along its 700km length. Those that do, the Buryats, know the lake as Old Man Baikal and revere it as a living being, a centre of shamanic energy. Felicity Aston walked the length of Baikal across the ice, visiting lake shore villages along the way to learn more about the myths of the lake and the Buryat culture. Her talk uses unforgettable images as well as film footage and audio clips to transport her audience to this most ancient of wonders.
Workshops for Schools:
The idea of a Polar Expedition is used as a basis to explore the role and responsibility of a leader and to develop techniques of leadership. Students are split into small expedition teams and invited to organise their own (imaginary) polar expedition. Starting with the search for sponsorship, the teams are presented with a series of scenarios, each designed to highlight a particular leadership issue ranging from communication to integrity. Students take it in turns to fill the leadership role and to discuss their thoughts with the group after each activity.
Based on her own experiences as a scientist with the British Antarctic Survey monitoring climate and ozone, Felicity provides a real insight into the realities and importance of this enthralling continent. Through a number of engaging and fully interactive activities such as trying Antarctic clothing and designing a new Antarctic research station, students are introduced to the geography and character of Antarctica as well as to the issues facing those attempting to protect this irreplaceable wilderness. At the end of the workshop students have a better understanding of the science that takes place in Antarctica and why this work is of global importance as well as an overview of the factors that threaten Antarctica's future.
Team Building Workshop
Using the multi-national team of the recent Kaspersky Lab Commonwealth Antarctic Expedition to the South Pole as a case study, the workshop aims to highlight the characteristics of an effective team and give students the skills needed to work together effectively as a group. Students are guided through the principles of teamwork before being invited to put the theory into practise by forming small teams and embarking on an imaginary expedition of their own. The teams are presented with several challenges during their expedition which can only be solved by working together as a group.