Antarctic Fire Angels to trek to South Pole

Two female firefighters will be skiing to the South Pole, unassisted, with the aim of inspiring women and girls to achieve their ambitions.

Firefighters Georgina Gilbert (Penarth Station) and Rebecca Openshaw-Rowe, On-Call at Kenfig Hill and Joint Fire Control with MAWWFRS, are embarking on an expedition that’s not for the faint-hearted this November.

Leaving Wales for the coldest continent on earth, the pair will be facing sub-minus temperatures, blistering winds, and physical and emotional hardships whilst they attempt to ski a total of 1,130 km from the coast of Antarctica to the South Pole.

Conquering this route will be a world first, as such a feat has never been achieved by an Emergency Services team before – let alone a pair of women. On this point, George commented:

“When we first approached insurance companies about this expedition, there was no cover in existence for women over 45 attempting an unguided expedition. The equivalent cover existed for men, but absolutely nothing for women, and this was unanimous across the globe.”

“This is just not acceptable. It should be possible for every woman or girl to take every opportunity in life to achieve their ambitions without these kinds of restrictions.”

The expedition

The pair will be unassisted and unsupported for the entirety of their journey, each pulling 85+ kg supply sleds in temperatures which can get as low as -50c, with possible wind speeds of over 60 mph.

Ater four years of training, George and Bex are preparing to set off for the expedition on 10th November, which will see them away from friends and family for approximately 45 days, spending Christmas in a tent with just each other for company.

Challenging stereotypes

The Antarctic Fire Angels are aiming to challenge stereotypes around what women are capable of, and hope to inspire the next generation of girls and women to achieve the unthinkable.

They say:

“When we were growing up, we didn’t see any representation of female firefighters or female adventurers, and we therefore didn’t really know these options were available to us.

“We believe that everyone should be given every opportunity in life to achieve their ambitions. Historically, women and girls have been stereotyped into certain roles, and are therefore unaware of their own capabilities outside of these boundaries.

“We intend on being visible role models to women and girls, as you can’t be what you can’t see!”

Research element

The University of the West of England will be gathering data for a social dynamics study into the effects of extreme environments on the body as a result of the expedition, whilst Cardiff Metropolitan University will be monitoring the menstrual cycle and menopause of the two women whilst they are away.

Research of this nature is usually conducted by the British Army, so the results are rarely (if ever) shared with the general public.

George noted from discussions she’s had with several female Firefighters across the UK that the Service as a whole is losing female frontline firefighters when they reach menopause age, as they are then deemed ‘no longer capable of doing their jobs’ and usually take more ‘backseat’ roles; within the Service or elsewhere.  This feeds into recruitment and retention issues, and asks the question of how women can be better supported through the entirety of their Fire Service careers.

The pair are aiming to raise a total of £25,000 in donations towards the expedition. If you’d like to donate, or to find out more, please see the link here.