Team Forces is excited to be supporting INSPIRE 22, an interdisciplinary South Pole innovation & research expedition to the South Pole. Attending their launch event last night, which was very kindly sponsored by IBM, it was impressive to see what the team hopes to accomplish in such a dangerous environment as Antarctica.
This month a team of ten will start their 900km journey from ‘the Messner start’ on the coast of Antarctica across the polar plateau to the heart of the continent – the South Pole. The team will carry all their own supplies, hauling sleds of around 80-100kgs, for up to 50 days whilst battling high winds of around 100kph, temperatures dropping to as low as -50°C and finishing at an altitude of 2835m above sea level. Their aim is to explore the metabolic cost of sustained polar travel. The team will undergo a variety of scientific investigations alongside utilising wearable technologies to increase our understanding of the physiological adaptations in the austere environment but also to inform potential translational implications for patients.
Maj Gen Lamont Kirkland CBE said, “Team Forces is proud to be supporting this physically challenging scientific expedition to Antarctica. The findings from the team’s journey will not only expand the current knowledge of how our bodies survive sudden changes to our environment but it might also improve the clinical treatment of patients around the world.”
SCIENCE AND RESEARCH
As human beings, we have adapted and learned to inhabit almost every land-based environment on earth and this adaptability is key to our success as a species. All species require nutrition to maintain the complex body chemistry necessary for survival. Measuring the energy of that complex body chemistry, usually termed metabolic energy, is the focus of our research.
INSPIRE 22 will be the first Antarctica expedition to conduct metabolic measurements “on the ice” to investigate the effects of acclimatisation and de-acclimatisation. The team will closely measure weight loss and body composition throughout the expedition to determine the energy expenditure. In addition, blood, saliva, urine and hair samples will be taken at various points on the ice to assess cortisol, metabolism and other physiological processes. Team members will also undergo radiological scans before and after the expedition to evaluate the effect on bone density and muscle mass.
Major Natalie Taylor
Professor Chris Imray
LCpl Stephanie Innes-Smith
Major Henry Crosby
Surgeon Lieutenant Cdr Stefano Capella
Major Pat Harper
Sqn Ldr Mike Eager
Dr Roger Alcock
Dr Nadja Albertsen
(Providing UK based support)
Dr Jack Krindler
Private Fiona Koivula
Capt Rebecca Lillywhite
Dr Claire Grogan
THE SOUTH POLE EXPEDITION
The journey from the Ross Ice Shelf on the edge of Antarctica to the South Pole was first completed on 14th December 1911 by Roald Amundsen’s team and shortly after this on 17th January 1912 by Captain Scott’s team. Scott’s team sadly died on the return journey from hypothermia and malnutrition.
Over a century later, the expedition to the South Pole remains an enormous challenge physically, mentally, and nutritionally. Whilst it has successfully been completed many times both by teams and solo expeditions, the number of medical research expeditions can be counted on one hand.
Major Natalie Taylor will lead INSPIRE 22, a military GP with extensive deployed experience as well as being the co-organiser and assistant leader of the Ice Maiden expedition, the first all-female team to cross Antarctica from coast to coast using muscle power alone. Professor Chris Imray, the research guru in the team, a vascular/renal transplant surgeon, a world expert in cold injuries and an accomplished climber. With these two at the helm, the team hopes to have a successful expedition and to undertake research that will add to the seminal work completed by Mike Stroud and Sir Ranulph Fiennes on the metabolic tariff of polar travel and the associated malnutrition when crossing Antarctica in 1992/3.
WHY DO RESEARCH IN ANTARCTICA?
Evolutionary changes have allowed us to respond to changes in our environment that occur over millennia, but we need to use scientific knowledge about our bodies to help adapt our behaviour and diet for sudden changes such as:
- diseases and their treatments;
- natural disasters (fire, flood, famine & accidents); and
- exploratory travel on land, space and the deep oceans.
Antarctica is the coldest and highest continent on earth and as such presents multiple and sustained challenges to those who choose to explore it:
- altitude up to 4000m;
- temperatures down to -50°C;
- high levels of sustained physical activity for those exploring on foot/ski; and
- nutritional intake limited by compromise between the body’s need for nutrition and the energy required to transport food, and fuel to heat it.
Understanding the response of the human body to these multiple challenges gives an insight into surviving sudden changes in our environment.