Six British soldiers have become the first all-female group to cross the Antarctic using nothing but muscle power.
After spending 62 days on the ice, the British Army’s Ice Maiden Expedition crossed the finish line at the Hercules Inlet.
Moments later, team leader Major Nics Wetherill told Sky News: “We’re feeling so happy right now.
“We’re so relieved. It’s a complete mix of emotions right now… excitement, relief, happiness… glad this is all over.”
Major Wetherill was joined by Major Natalie Taylor, both of the Royal Army Medical Corps, and four others.
Together, they travelled up to 27 miles a day, navigating crevasses as they pulled sledges weighing up to 80kg (176lbs) and battling temperatures as low as -50C.
The expedition began on the edge of the Ross Ice Shelf on 20 November and involved climbing the Transantarctic Mountains, via the Leverett Glacier, to reach the polar plateau.
They took in new supplies at the South Pole before they made their way to Hercules Inlet, skiing 373 miles across uneven ground, and spent Christmas Day on the ice before arriving at their final re-supply point at the base of the Thiel Mountains.
From there they descended to the Hercules Inlet to the finish line.
Major Wetherill told how they were “lucky with the weather” and were had prepared well with seven weeks in Norway before the expedition began, allowing them to get “all our routines down to a tee”.
“Our timings were tight and we worked really well as a team… it meant that we managed to cover some ground over a good amount of time,” she said, adding: “We finished a lot faster than we thought.”
The other four members of the team were reservist Major Sandy Hennis of the Royal Signals, Captain Zanna Baker and Lieutenant Jenni Stephenson, both of the Royal Artillery, and Honourable Artillery Company reservist Lance Sergeant Sophie Montagne.
Major Wetherill told of the challenges they faced, saying: “I’m glad to say that everyone has all their 10 fingers, 10 toes, two ears and one nose.”
Major Taylor told Press Association: “I have spent the last few days trying to imprint this beautiful landscape in my mind. We have called it home for close to two months now and I will, in a strange way, miss it a lot.
“The snow sparkles like there is a layer of pearls on the surface and everywhere you look there is beauty and stillness. The photos just don’t do it justice.”