It’s ice work if you can get it

The Peterborough Evening Telegraph - - News - By KEN MCERLAIN ken.mcerlain@pe­ter­bor­oughto­day.co.uk

AN IN­TREPID RAF of­fi­cer based at Wit­ter­ing is brac­ing him­self for a once-in-a-life­time ad­ven­ture to one of the cold­est places on the planet.

Bomb dis­posal of­fi­cer Toby St­ed­ham (28) will head to the frozen plains of Antarc­tica for a two-month sci­en­tific re­search as­sign­ment af­ter mak­ing through a tough se­lec­tion process.

Flt Lt St­ed­ham, from the 5131 Bomb Dis­posal Squadron, has spent more than two years train­ing for the ex­pe­di­tion, which is made up of a team of 24 mem­bers of the Bri­tish Armed Forces.

The ex­pe­di­tion, which de­parts on Jan­uary 4, is the first “Joint” ser­vice trip mounted to the Antarc­tic main­land by the Bri­tish Armed Forces.

It also com­mem­o­rates the 100th an­niver­sary of Cap­tain Robert Fal­con Scott’s ill-fated at­tempt to be the first man to reach the South Pole.

The team will be car­ry­ing out sci­en­tific re­search into global cli­mate change as well as at­tempt­ing to as­cend pre­vi­ously un­climbed moun­tains.

They will also make the first-ever un­sup­ported cross­ing of the ice-cov­ered, 40-mile-long Avery Plateau.

Flt Lt St­ed­ham said: “I’m thrilled to have been se­lected for the ex­pe­di­tion hav­ing put in al­most two-and-a-half years’ train­ing.

“I feel most alive in the moun­tains and I can’t wait to get out on the ice.

“At­tempt­ing to cross the Avery Plateau will no doubt push me to my lim­its and im­prove my re­ac­tion to stress­ful sit­u­a­tions, hence de­vel­op­ing my abil­ity to oper­ate as a bomb dis­posal of­fi­cer.”

Flt Lt St­ed­ham was se­lected from an ini­tial squad of 120 con­tenders who were even­tu­ally whit­tled down to 24 in­clud­ing 13 mem­bers of the Army, six from the Royal Navy, four from the Royal Air Force and one Royal Marine.

The team have had to do a huge amount of train­ing to gain the skills they will need to work and oper­ate in the sub-zero tem­per­a­tures.

Their train­ing regime took them all over Europe and in­cluded de­vel­op­ing their map read­ing, ra­dio work, prac­tis­ing boat cap­sizes and learn­ing to ski.

The team have been pro­vided with Mammut cloth­ing in the form of ‘Haute Route Pants’, an ‘Ul­ti­mate Hoodie’, ‘Adren­a­line Jacket’, a full set of ther­mal un­der lay­ers and beanie hats.

Once on the ice, the team will set up a main base camp be­fore split­ting up into their sub-teams of eight.

They will leave be­hind a GPS trans­mit­ter to mon­i­tor any move­ments in the ice-shelf for the next three years.

The team will also be car­ry­ing out other ex­per­i­ments for uni­ver­si­ties in­clud­ing Brunel, Ply­mouth, Portsmouth, New­cas­tle and Univer­sity Col­lege Lon­don.

These sci­en­tific projects in­clude mea­sure­ment of UV lev­els, trac­ing sea life mi­cro­fauna and bor­ing ice-holes to mea­sure oro­graphic flows and cli­mate change lev­els.

To find out more about the ex­pe­di­tion visit www.bsae2012.co.uk or www. face­book.com/bsae2012

in­trepid: Flt Lt Toby St­ed­ham.

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