Project Purpose

Antarctic Endurance 2016 is a 2-year research programme looking at team dynamics and performance, centred on a 6-week sailing and mountaineering expedition to the Antarctic and South Georgia in January/February 2016, a century on from Shackleton’s extraordinary recovery from the Weddell Sea.  The aim of the project is to stand on the shoulders of Shackleton to inspire a new generation of sailors and Marines to seek adventure and challenge.  It will celebrate both the extraordinary achievements in 1914-16 of Shackleton and his men and the raw grit and determination evident in the young men and women of today’s Naval Service.  The research programme will be used to educate the Naval Command, Ministry of Defence and industry in key aspects of team dynamics and leadership that can be applied across the full spectrum of military operations, management and business.

The Expedition

Exercise Antarctic Endurance 2016 (the Adventurous Training Exped) will take place between 18 Jan and 29 Feb 16, sailing from Stanley in the Falklands and returning there, having taken passage into the Weddell Sea, made landings on the east coast of the Antarctic Peninsula and Elephant Island before sending a team overland from King Haakon Bay to Stromness in South Georgia.  Throughout this 6-week adventure, there will be research conducted into leadership and team dynamics and data collected on climate, environment and hydrography on behalf of BAS, Cambridge and Plymouth Universities and the UK Hydrographic Office.  The 11 Service participants will be made up of a core team of qualified and experienced sailors and mountaineers, with a crew of 6 RN and RM personnel in the first 5 years of their careers.  The outcome of the leadership research, being coordinated by Professor Andrew St George, will provide information on team selection, leadership fatigue, team dynamics and the concept of the ‘Life Changing Experience’ for use by the RN, wider MOD and business.

The Research

This study will provide a unique opportunity in a real world arduous military training environment to address the questions:

1) Does adventure training improve grit (strength of character/resilience/courage/self-confidence/self-esteem/leadership) and

2) Can we predict this early on in our training programs by psychometric screening tests.

Primary Aim:

Specifically we will be able to see if ‘grit’ can be maturated by adventure training at two levels ‘moderate’ and ‘severe’ by noting changes in a range of pre-developed psychometric tests that measure various aspects of this construct. An adventure training sample will be selected by normal military RN/RM methods and standard practices. The research group of volunteers will be anonymously drawn from within this sample.  Baseline research data will be collected in the same participants during the initial expedition screening process using a variety of established metrics, then again at the end of Phase I (medium intensity adventurous training activity) and again at the end of Phase II (extreme arduous adventure training activity). Any changes over time will be examined to assess if adventurous Training can be demonstrated to improve grit and if so, by how much. We would also seek to determine if these changes in character are enduring.

Other aspects of team dynamics will be externally rated by at least two SME trainers on 5 point Likert items including;  strength of character/resilience/courage/self-confidence/self-esteem/leadership/team social-interaction and leadership.

The “Null” hypothesis to be tested is that there will be no change in grit characteristics and team dynamics under conditions of increasing environmental danger.

Secondary Aim:

This study will determine whether the early scores on ‘grit’ assessments can be used to predict later individual performance and SME ratings in team dynamics under conditions of increasing environmental danger