British Explorer and Polar Adventurer, Rosie Stancer FRGS, supports the BRIT Ambassador family
We are delighted that Rosie is part of our BRIT Ambassador family to support and improve young adult mental health and fitness throughout the UK
Rosie is a record-breaking explorer and polar athlete and adventurer who has hauled herself solo to the North and South Poles. Rosie has also sledged over the length & breadth of the frozen Siberian Lake Baikal, solo, unsupported; her total mileage over 700 km was completed in 21 days, without resupplies. Most recently she crossed by foot with a bespoke cart, the world’s newest desert, and probably planet’s worst man-made environmental disaster, the Aral Kum. Each of her expeditions has been in aid of a chosen charity including St John’s Ambulance, Special Olympics GB and Veterans Aid. Rosie has gathered both meteorological and physiological data which has been published as a scientific document on sports performance and is involved in research at the University of Essex School of Biological Sciences – Centre for Sports and Exercise Science; she also works with a team of psychologists on monitoring psychological states and coping strategies before, during and after her expeditions. Rosie is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, Vice President of the Scientific Exploration Society (SES) and presents for Goldster; an online membership platform created to inspire and make accessible and enjoyable content for people over 50 to lead a more active, interesting, fun and ultimately healthy life. Conceived by a small dedicated team researching into cognitive therary for alzeimers, this project is driven by the need to systematically address the healthy ageing process, in mind, body and soul.
“Through my involvement with the University of Essex’s research, along with my 3-strong team of psychologists, we actively explore into psychological states and coping strategies, and through all my expeditions over the past twenty five years, I know the importance of maintaining good mental health, fitness and wellbeing. This research is an integral part of a what I hope is a valuable legacy to the expeditions and this, I hope, will also be of worth to BRIT.
It is deeply concerning that the COVID-19 pandemic has compounded the existing mental health difficulties faced by young adults and that one in four young people were unable to access the mental health support they needed during the 2020 lockdown. In order to avoid long-term effects on young adult mental health, it is clear that there is requirement for a multi-agency approach across sectors and services to prevent and support the mental health and wellbeing of students; it is not something that the NHS, or universities and colleges, can do alone.
The British Inspiration Trust (BRIT) have evolved to become a collaborative charity who are uniting the charity, education and sport sectors through their BRIT Challenges and forging relationships with universities and colleges throughout the UK. It is clear that their vision to deliver an annual BRIT Challenge has been warmly embraced and is having a positive UK-wide impact on young adult mental health and fitness; over the past two years, almost 180 university and college teams have taken part in BRIT Challenges and I am especially delighted that the University of Essex have embraced the challenges and their students and staff have shown such enthusiasm and engagement.
The annual BRIT Challenge is an inspiring feelgood February fundraiser to enable students and young adults of all abilities to take part wherever they are (at home or on campus) and be an integral and valued member of their university or college team. I hope every university, college, specialist college and Students’ Union enters teams and promote the opportunity so that their students and staff can take part.
I am thrilled to be part of the BRIT Ambassador family to support and improve young adult mental health and hope fellow Explorers and Adventurers will join me as BRIT Ambassadors and champion the BRIT Challenge. Along with Olympians, Paralympians and sports personalities, together we can encourage our chosen universities and colleges to take on the BRIT Challenge, destigmatise mental health and champion equality, diversity and inclusion. I look forward to encouraging students and staff at the University of Essex as they complete their BRIT Challenge.”
Rosie Stancer FRGS
British Explorer and Polar Adventurer
An accomplished Polar athlete and explorer since 1996, Rosie has embarked on a series of major polar expeditions. In 1996/7, as the first step in her polar career, Rosie joined 19 other women in an audacious challenge to ski to the North Pole. Together with two female guides, they relayed across the Arctic Ocean. Determination, resourcefulness and teamwork saw them overcome the arctic hazards and polar inexperience to become the first all-female team to reach the North Pole. It was a much-publicised and popular 1st for Great Britain. The McVities All Women’s Penguin Polar Relay was in aid of St John’s Ambulance. In 1999/20, Rosie and four other women became the first British women to walk unguided to the South Pole. Together, they planned, researched and trained for the expedition. Meteorological data was gathered on route and submitted to the Omega Foundation. This was the team’s second 1st for Great Britain. The team walked from the Ronne Ice Shelf to the Geographic north pole at 90 degrees north. Rosie’s M&G ISA South Pole Expedition, whose Royal Patron was HRH the Prince of Wales, was in aid of Special Olympics GB.
In 2003/04, Rosie skied solo and without resupply to the South Pole. In 2004, Antarctica was still a man’s world and this challenge had only once before been undertaken by a woman, Norwegian Liv Arneson. Hauling a sledge more than twice her body weight for over 1000 km, she smashed previous speed records by 7 days, completing the extreme endurance challenge in 43 days 23 hours. Rosie was pipped to the pole by hours by ‘fellow’ Brit, Fiona Thornewill. Nevertheless, having both smashed all previous years’ speed records by 7 days, they remained loyal friends. During the expedition, Rosie gathered both meteorological and physiological data which has been published as a scientific document on sports performance by Professor Andrew Lane. Rosie’s Snickers South Pole solo, whose Royal Patron was HRH the Prince of Wales, was in aid of Special Olympics GB.
In 2007, journeying alone over the surface of the frozen Arctic Ocean for 84 days, Rosie travelled further than any previous attempts by women to reach the North Pole solo. She battled conditions now recognised as the worst on record. After suffering frostbite and gangrene in the first week, Rosie amputated two of her toes with her Leatherman in order to continue and after 426 nautical miles and only 89 nautical miles short of reaching her goal, Rosie had to subjugate her own ambitions for the safety of the pilots, who if picking her up later, would be risking their own lives landing on the fast disintegrating melting ice. Later, when talking about the struggle, BBC presenter Paul Atterbury said “I stand in awe, “ Rosie replied: “I still stand.” adding “It was simply a choice of deciding whether to lose a few toes rather than risk losing a foot.” Rosie’s Mars North Pole solo, whose Royal Patron was HRH the Prince of Wales, was in aid of Special Olympics GB.
It is this ferrous determination and experience that drives Rosie towards her challenges. By being seen to push the boundaries of endurance under extreme conditions, Rosie continues to encourage others to go beyond their own expectations.
In 2011, Rosie, and photographer Martin Hartley, explored, and trained on, sea ice off the remote arctic island of Broughton (north of Baffin) on a short expedition to sharpen up her ice skills, test out kit, equipment, and above all, test out her back after a double discectomy operation.
In a wild compass swing from the frozen south and north, in 2018, Rosie led a small team through the Omani desert of the Wahiba Sands, from north to south, through a less trodden route through the giant dunes. This short expedition offered up the opportunity to train in desert survival skills in preparation for future sand desert challenges lined up, including the Aral Kum in Kazakhstan.
In 2019, Rosie crossed Lake Baikal, solo, unsupported. The “Long Haul” expedition over the frozen surface of the world’s largest, deepest and oldest freshwater lake, the Siberian Lake Baikal, lived up to its name with two participants, Rosie Stancer and Mike Laird, each travelling independently from opposite directions with the record being achieved by Rosie as a solo unsupported female explorer. Her total mileage over 700 km, across the breadth and width of the lake, completing in 21 days, without resupplies. Mike Laird, also a seasoned expeditioner from Edinburgh, set off from the northern end of the lake travelling south in the opposite direction to Rosie. Both Mike and Rosie were totally self-reliant and faced temperatures that with windchill from Siberian winds, hit the -40s. Rosie and Mike travelled almost a marathon per day for 20 consecutive days whilst pulling sledges that weighed upwards of 60 kilos. The route was a World First across the lake in support of Veterans Aid their chosen charity.
In August 2020, Rosie and Medic, researcher and ex-polar team mate, Pom Oliver, walked the entire 630-mile Monarchs Way. The Monarchs Way follows the route taken by King Charles II after his defeat at his Battle of Worcester in 1651. Starting off in Worcester, they walked for approximately four weeks and finished at Shoreham in West Sussex where the King escaped to France.
Most recently Rosie, together with her Polar teammate, Pom Oliver, crossed by foot with a bespoke cart, the world’s newest desert, and probably planet’s worst man-made environmental disaster, the Aral Kum.
The team navigated their way over what was once the seabed, hauling specially designed carts over salt pans, sand, scrub and shallows. This was the first full crossing of the breadth of the Aral Kum by foot, covering a distance of some 600 km, crossing each delineation of the original shoreline as it shrunk over the past six decades.
The route took the team through the stark desertscape where the sea once was, as well as between and along the fringes of both the Large Aral Sea and the Small Aral Sea, north of Vozrozhdeniye ‘island’, Barsakelmes island and nature reserve, the Kok-Aral dam and finally through the small and remote communities that remain on the original eastern shoreline.
The Aral Kum is a new desert, once a bountiful sea until, and as recently as, the 1960s, since when 10% now remains, having been drained by the then Soviet Government. The two rivers that fed the Sea, the Amu Darya in the south and the Syr Darya in the east, were diverted in an attempt to grow rice, melons, cereals, and cotton.
This was a non-judgemental expedition that made observations on any ongoing positive measures being undertaken to mitigate the effects of desertification, and their apparent results thus far as well as the adaption of the local communities to the new desert environment.
The physical and psychological impact of such a rigorous expedition, on each of the team, was measured and monitored on a daily basis for scientific research.
Rosie's honorary doctorate was awarded to her by the University of Essex School of Biological Sciences – Centre for Sports and Exercise Science, for her expedition physiological research. She worked with the University in several of her earlier expeditions on this research before teaming up with a trio of Sport and Exercise Psychologists. Dr Tracey Devonport, Dr Carla Meijen and Juliette Lloyd are monitoring psychological states and coping strategies before, during and after Rosie’s expeditions in a bid to explore firstly what kinds of challenges she faces and thereafter, which coping mechanisms she uses at different moments of the expedition. They will be using questionnaires and diaries filled in during the trip as well as interviews and additional material to explore Rosie’s innermost thoughts and feelings. They are hoping that their findings will be shared and inform the thinking of other athletes and teams involved in endurance events.
Through her Scottish family line, the Bowes Lyons, she is a cousin of Her Majesty The Queen.
She holds the Explorers Club Medal, The Mirror Pride of Britain medal and is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and an Honorary Advisor to the Scientific Exploration Society (SES). Inspiring motivational talks, based on her ground-breaking expeditions to the South and North Poles, have made her an extremely popular and sought after speaker. She has captivated audiences at a number of major global corporate conferences, many events focused on women in the business world and motivational speaking on specific training techniques for mental aptitude with cognitive and behavioural effort in order to manage taxing demands. Rosie is often asked for her anecdotal experience of the environmental changes that are impacting the world today. She is a spellbinding speaker, mixing insight with intellect, perspicacity and wit. She is experienced in interview style appearances as well as sitting on discussion panels or interview style appearances.
For more information on Rosie, please visit her website.
You can follow Rosie on Instagram.