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Experience from the selection and nutritional preparation for Expedition ICE MAIDEN: the first successful all-female unassisted Antarctic traverse
  1. Natalie Taylor1,
  2. R M Gifford2,3,
  3. R Cobb4,
  4. S L Wardle5,
  5. S Jones6,
  6. J Blackadder-Weinstein1,
  7. J Hattersley7,
  8. A Wilson7,
  9. C Imray7,
  10. J P Greeves5,
  11. R Reynolds2 and
  12. D R Woods3,8
  1. 1 Academic Department of General Practice, Defence Medical Services Research and Clinical Innovation, Birmingham, UK
  2. 2 University/ British Heart Foundation Centre for Cardiovascular Science, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
  3. 3 Academic Department of Military Medicine, Defence Medical Services Research and Clinical Innovation, Birmingham, UK
  4. 4 PND Consulting, Birmingham, UK
  5. 5 Army Personnel Research Capability, Army Headquarters, Andover, UK
  6. 6 Antarctic Logistics and Expeditions, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA
  7. 7 Human Metabolic Research Unit, Universities of Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust and University of Warwick, Warwick, UK
  8. 8 Research Institute for Sport, Physical Activity and Leisure, Leeds Beckett University, Leeds, UK
  1. Correspondence to R M Gifford, British Heart Foundation Centre for Cardiovascular Science, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh EH8 9YL, UK; r.gifford{at}


Introduction Expedition ICE MAIDEN (Ex IM) was the first all-female unsupported crossing of Antarctica. We describe the prerequisite selection and training, comparing those who formed the final team with other participants, and discuss how the expedition diet was established.

Methods All women serving in the British Army were invited to participate. Following initial assessments, successful women completed three training/selection ski expeditions. Between expeditions 1 and 2, participants completed 6 months rigorous UK-based training. Weight was measured before and after the 6 months UK-based training, expeditions 2 and 3, and body composition by skinfold before and after expedition 2. Participant feedback, body composition and weight changes were applied to modify the expedition diet and provide weight gain targets prior to Ex IM.

Results Following 250 applications, 50 women were assessed and 22, 12 and seven women attended training expeditions 1, 2 and 3, respectively. The final team of six women lost more weight than other participants during UK-based training (mean (SD) change −1.3 (1.5) kg vs −0.5 (1.6) kg, respectively, p=0.046) and during training expedition 2 (−2.8 (0.8) kg vs −1.7 (0.4) kg, respectively, p=0.048), when they also gained more lean mass (+2.1 (0.8) kg vs +0.4 (0.7) kg, respectively, p=0.004). The Ex IM diet provided 5000 kCal/day, comprising approximately 45% carbohydrate, 45% fat and 10% protein. Median (range) weight change between expedition 3 and Ex IM was +8.7 (−1.9 to +14.3) kg.

Conclusions The selected Ex IM team demonstrated favourable training-associated body composition changes. Training-associated weight loss informed the expeditionary diet design.

  • diet
  • food and nutrition (mesh)
  • sports nutrition sciences (mesh)
  • athletic performance (mesh) dietary supplement
  • sport (mesh)
  • arctic regions (mesh)

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  • Contributors NT, RG, DW, RC and RR conceived the study and carried out measurements and analysis. NT, RG, DW and RR wrote the manuscript. All authors had editorial input and approved the final manuscript.

  • Funding Ex IM was given unrestricted funding by a series of corporate sponsors and the British Army. Details of funding can be found at None of the funders played any role in the design or conduct of this study.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Obtained.

  • Ethics approval This study was approved by MoDREC. Ethical approval was received for the study immediately before and after Ex IM (827/MoDREC/17).

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement Data are available upon reasonable request.