Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Psychological tests on Antarctic expedition team

Expedition members in training
Image caption The 24-strong team of army, navy and RAF personnel have been training for two years

A team of 24 servicemen and women who are spending two months in Antarctica next year will have their mental state monitored by sports psychologists.

The British Services Antarctic Expedition will head to the South Pole in January to conduct research.

The trip will also mark the 100th anniversary of Captain Scott's Antarctic expedition.

Sports psychologists from the University of Portsmouth will monitor the team and examine how they cope.

They will analyse what coping strategies are adopted by polar explorers to help them work and survive in hostile environments.

Recommendations will then be produced for future expeditions or deployments in extreme environments to help boost team cohesion.

The expedition will involve spending between 50 and 60 days in sub-zero temperatures conducting scientific research and visiting previously unexplored territory.

'Heightened irritability'

Dr Neil Weston and Dr Chris Wagstaff, from the university, have interviewed everyone due to take part and will assess their state of mind again on their return.

During the trip each team member will keep a daily diary recording how they are feeling, which will be assessed by psychologists on their return.

They will examine what emotions they faced, what support they needed from each other, and the coping mechanisms they used to support themselves and each other.

Dr Neil Weston, from the department of sport and exercise science, said: "The physical and emotional demands of the expedition will put a huge strain on every member of the team.

"Tension and heightened irritability are common consequences of working in these harsh, cold environments so the chances of conflict within the party are high.

"The aim of our research is to examine the strategies that the expedition team use to support each other and to regulate their own emotions to ensure a safe and fully-functioning unit."

Flt Lt Stuart Quinn, who is taking part, said: "We have been training for over two years but until now our thoughts haven't fully aligned themselves with the stark reality of surviving for two months in the Antarctic.

"Our feelings are an emotional roller coaster of excitement and trepidation."

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