Swansea research supports Greenland ice cap world record attempt

Swansea University research expertise will be behind a team which, in May 2015, will be attempting the world’s first unsupported crossing by an amputee of the 600 km Greenland ice cap, in aid of Help for Heroes.

‌The team is called 65 Degrees North and includes Peter Bowker, an amputee from the recent conflict in Afghanistan, along with four colleagues, including former Special Forces personnel.
 
600 x 375

The team will be conducting the unsupported crossing on skis, pulling pulks weighing up to 300lbs containing their food, clothing and survival equipment. The route is around 600 km, from Kangerlussuaq in the west to Kulusuk in the east.
 
Collectively they will battle against the distance and fatigue, temperatures as low as -37°c, deep crevasses and the resident polar bears.  The journey, a world record attempt, is estimated to take between 24-30 days.


65 degrees north - Dr Meinir JonesPicture:  Dr Mellita McNarry and Dr Kelly MacKintosh from Swansea University's sports science team test 65 Degrees North team doctor Meinir Jones

Swansea University’s sports science experts, along with colleagues from the Welsh Elite Performance Sport Innovation Network (WEPSIN), have already been working with the 65 Degrees North team on a number of projects.

65 degrees north - Pete BowkerFor example, Dr Mellita McNarry and Dr Kelly MacKintosh profiled the team for their baseline aerobic fitness to allow them to monitor the effectiveness of their preparations.  Dr Tom Love has been helping the team with advice on nutrition.

In addition Dr Steve Mellalieu is working with the team on topics such as team cohesion and coping with the pressures around this event.

Finally Dr Kilduff, Dr Shearer (University of South Wales) and Mrs Clare Henson have been working with the team around passive heat maintenance techniques and sleep quality.
 
Picture:  Pete Bowker, team member, on a training exercise for the Greenland trek

At a recent meeting at Swansea University, the 65 Degrees North team also had a chance to speak to other researchers, which opened the door to other ways in which expert research can support the expedition, including:
 
•         What penguins and polar bears can teach us about conserving energy in sub-zero conditions:  Prof Rory Wilson from the College of Science, an expert on animal movement and tracking, told the team about how animals reduce energy through following compacted rather than fresh snow, even when the route is longer.  His use of tags to track animal movement may also be used by the team to monitor their movements and work rate.
 
•         Keeping warm on the ice with printed heaters: Dr Davide Deganello from the College of Engineering discussed with the 65 Degrees North team how the heated cloths he is developing could provide doses of extra warmth at times when they are particularly vulnerable to the cold, for example first thing in the morning.   
 
Associate Professor Liam Kilduff, from Applied Sports Technology, Exercise and Medicine (A-STEM) within the College of Engineering at Swansea University, director of WEPSIN, and one of the patrons of 65 Degrees North, said:
 
“We’re delighted to be supporting the team at 65 Degrees North. ‌The research conducted here at Swansea University is being applied to some of the key performance issues highlighted by the team, from ensuring they are in peak condition to how to keep warm in freezing temperatures.
 
Making sure our research has an impact on real-life problems is a priority for us, and our work with 65 north is testament to that.”
 
65 Degrees north team at Swansea UniPicture‌d at Swansea University:  (l-r) Mick, Meinir, Richard and Pete, who will all be undertaking the Greenland crossing, with Leesa, who co-ordinates the 65 Degrees North team.

The 65 Degrees North challenge is being undertaken to raise funds and awareness for Help for Heroes, a British charity helping to provide better facilities for British servicemen and women who have been wounded or injured in the line of duty.
 
About 65 Degrees North

Sports science at Swansea University