Watch the video of Ann Daniels’ talk at TEDxExeter 2014.
Scroll down the page for biographical information and news.
Video and Live blogging
Ann grew up in Bradford, went to a comprehensive, left school at 16, got a job, got married, had no aspirations… especially to having an idea that is worth spreading.
Having triplets changed all that. She realised that she could do anything! She saw an advert for ordinary women to go on a polar expedition. She had all the qualifications – she was an ordinary woman. She went on a weekend for applicants on Dartmoor, and was annihilated. But she then spent 9 months training, friends taught her how to read a map, and she went back to Dartmoor and got on the team, her biggest accomplishment!
She was on the first leg of a relay across the Arctic ocean. She spent 17 days walking in what she describes as a ‘crystal beast’, with blues and pinks, and booms of moving ice.
Coming back she and four other women hatched a plot to be the first British women team to reach the South Pole. They spent 61 days walking into the Antarctic winds, in incredibly low temperatures, but they made it.
She also realised that scientists actually work there, but before getting involved in science, she had another expedition to walk all the way to the North Pole. Temperatures were unprecedented: -70 degC with windchill, hauling 300lb sledges. And she realised why only 53 teams had managed to undertake the journey. Traversing the ice is harder than the Antarctic land. On day 37, they had gone only 69 of 500 miles. They suffered physical injuries, frostbite and gangrenous feet – unpleasant photo! One of the team had to leave on the next supply plane. They had to swim, in specially-designed orange suits. But again they made it, and set a world record for women reaching both poles.
Ann got to know Pen Hadow, who is an explorer and scientist. He chose her to lead a team on the Arctic ice while he and another collected ice samples and took photos. What’s the point if we don’t do anything with information we collect? The photos are a way of sharing with the world. Every night they drilled and measured with a tape measure. They appeared on the News at Ten.
On the next expedition, she learnt about ocean acidification, collecting samples of water. Since the Industrial revolution, the carbon dioxide we have emitted has been absorbed by the ocean. The oceans have been a buffer, but at a cost. The water is becoming a weak carbonic acid, which is affecting coral reefs, becoming bleached and eroded. Other marine life is suffering, and humans will too, as reef protects us from winds and tsunamis. Phytoplankton can’t produce as much – the bottom of our food chain is being eroded.
We can make small changes that make a difference – buy locally, buy green energy, use the car less, make your home energy efficient, encourage each other to go through glass ceilings and realise our dreams.
Here’s another bit of topical Twitter tennis with the Met Office, your friendly Exeter-based national meteorological service.
@TEDxExeter : Hi @metoffice we have @AnnDanielsGB polar explorer speaking at #TEDxExeter today, what is the current weather in the polar regions?
@metoffice : @TEDxExeter Greenland is forecasted light snow and temps between -1 and +1 C over next 5 days http://bit.ly/1maeG9x ^EC
@metoffice : @TEDxExeter Antarctica has light and heavy snow in the forecasts, temps between -5 and 0 C http://bit.ly/1jdrvjF ^ec
Ann Daniels is the first woman in history, along with expedition teammate Caroline Hamilton, to reach the North and South Poles as part of all women teams.
Ann has learnt to survive in the most hostile environments on earth. In the year 2000, she and four other woman skied 700 miles across Antarctica to become the first British women’s team to sledge haul to the South Pole. In 2002 Ann then put together an expedition to ski from Ward Hunt Island to the North Pole to become the first women’s team to ski to both poles. They suffered frostbite, wet gangrene, carbon monoxide poisoning and, after skiing over 500 hazard-filled miles, finally reached the pole to make the world record.
In 2009 Ann became head of ice operations for the ground-breaking Catlin Arctic Survey. This project completed a unique environmental study of the rapidly disappearing frozen Arctic Ocean. Ann was responsible for leading the team on the ice and finding a safe route, making difficult decisions in the most extreme environment on Earth for 74 consecutive days.
Our oceans make up 99% of the world’s living space and it is now known that the chemistry of these oceans are changing and becoming more acidic. In 2010 Ann was asked back to lead a second Catlin Arctic Survey supporting scientists working to understand this change and the potential threat it poses to the environment. Spending 63 days on the ice the team of three were able to capture valuable data in regions inaccessible to most scientists.
In 2011, Ann returned to the Arctic for the final Catlin Arctic Survey. This survey looked at the thermahaline (temperature and salinity) properties of the Arctic Ocean and explored the possible effect this could have both on oceans worldwide and on the weather patterns that these oceans help to regulate.