Team QinetiQ completes over 48 hours of training at minus 30°C in QinetiQ's environmental chamber

27 Nov 2008

QinetiQ puts its South Pole race team through rigorous cold trials in its environmental chamber

Team QinetiQ have today emerged from QinetiQ’s climate chamber at MOD Boscombe Down in Wiltshire, South West England after enduring more than 48 hours of gruelling training in simulated Antarctic conditions.

QinetiQ is using its world-beating science and technology to help prepare Team QinetiQ both physically and mentally for a race to the South Pole that is expected to start on 1 January 2009.

During this latest series of trials the team spent up to 16 hours on treadmills pushing themselves to the limit in the bitterly cold chamber. This was an opportunity to practice tasks they will face during the race, such as pulling 200lb pulks, pitching tents and cooking, in simulated South Pole conditions.

James Cracknell said: “This is a key part of our training and has given us valuable experience of what it’s going to be like in the South Pole. We’ve had a gruelling couple of days but I’m confident that now we’re even better prepared for the race in January.”

QinetiQ is sponsoring Olympic gold medallist James Cracknell, BBC presenter Ben Fogle and Bristol-based hospital doctor Ed Coats in their attempt not just to compete in one of the most arduous endurance events in the world - The Amundsen Omega 3 South Pole Race – but to win it. Unfortunately, due to his recent illness, Ben Fogle was unable to take part in this element of the training.

Having completed months of punishing specialist training, Team QinetiQ will depart the UK on the 15th December, flying first to Cape Town to join the other teams before flying on to the Russian base at Novo in Antarctica. All six teams will then embark on a 100-mile acclimatisation journey including crevasse training over Christmas before reaching the start line. The race is scheduled to start on New Year's Day.

The international teams will race over 450 miles on skis to the geographic South Pole and face constant challenges throughout their journey, surviving in temperatures as low as -50°C.


QinetiQ’s main temperature control chamber at MOD Boscombe Down measures 24.5m x 25m x 5.4m high with a 6.75m high recess for aircraft fins. Environmental conditions can be constantly controlled between +70°C to -70°C. Humidity control is between ambient and 95% ±5% Relative Humidity (RH) at +40°C and sun effect (using solar arrays) are available throughout most of the temperature range. A second temperature control chamber measuring 5m x 4m x 7.5m is also available with similar humidity and sun-effect control. The size of the large chamber means that a number of pieces of equipment may be tested simultaneously – for example a small fleet of vehicles. In addition the facility can host habitability trials where the man to vehicle interface and survivability can be examined.

The environmental chambers can be used for checking electrical and hydraulic systems using ground test rigs and supply of cold air to run auxiliary power units. Propellers (but not rotors) can be run continuously while maintaining the test environment. Exhaust gases can be ducted to the outside of the building allowing trials to be conducted with Auxiliary Power Units (APUs) and engines running. Layers of ice can also be applied to the test equipment within the chamber to check its operation under icing conditions.

QinetiQ operates a diverse variety of test and evaluation facilities across various UK sites that deliver strategic capabilities of national importance and cost effectively deliver through life analysis of systems – from concept to disposal – to increase reliability and fitness for purpose. These include: ElectroMagnetic Compatibility (EMC) chambers; various real-time simulators covering all types of vehicle; test and vibration rigs; land, sea and air test and evaluation ranges; a suite of human physiology testing facilities and specialist materials and physical testing capabilities.

QinetiQ People Who Know How
Team QinetiQ completes over 48 hours of training at minus 30°C in QinetiQ's environmental chamber