Preet Chandi is the first woman of color to complete a solo Antarctic expedition
Preet Chandi has made a habit of pushing his limits, tackling increasingly difficult endurance events over the years, from ultramarathons to mountaineering.
And fresh off a grueling ski expedition to Antarctica, the 32-year-old has now made history. “Polar Preet” is considered the first woman of color to complete an unassisted expedition to the South Pole.
The British Army officer and physiotherapist, who is of Indian descent and Sikh faith, completed the 700-mile trip in just 40 days, according to a Monday blog post. She documented her journey online and on Instagram, posting daily updates with thanks to those who supported and inspired her.
âThis expedition has always been so much more than me,â Chandi wrote on Day 40. âI want to encourage people to push their limits and believe in themselves, and I want you to be able to do it without being labeled a rebel. … I don’t wanna just shatter the glass ceiling, I wanna shatter it into a million pieces. “
Chandi wrote on his website that she did not know much about Antarctica – other than its status as “the coldest, highest, driest and windiest continent on Earth” – when she began planning her expedition over two years ago, that’s why she wanted to go.
Only a few female adventures have completed solo, unassisted treks on the mainland, starting with Norway. Liv Arnesen in 1994. Chandi said she wanted to add more names and diversity to this list, hoping to inspire future generations to pursue their goals and push the boundaries.
“By promoting and complementing this challenge, it allows me to be a role model for young people, women and people from ethnic backgrounds,” she wrote.
Chandi also has a financial mission to help women embark on their own adventures. She set up a online fundraiser for the expedition, saying she would use half of the funds to cover her medical, training and logistics expenses and the other half to set up an annual adventure scholarship for women.
The grant does not necessarily have to involve travel to Antarctica, Chandi explained in a mid-December post, as long as it allows people to “lead unique adventures” and “push their limits”. She is too Fund raising for Help Khalsa, an international NGO that provides humanitarian aid in disaster areas and areas of civil conflict.
Chandi said she was especially proud to embark on her mission as a woman of color. She recalled in one of his updates that people would spit on her and throw eggs at her when she was a teenager because she looked different, and she said it took a long time for her to embrace her skin color, her culture and her roots .
âI’ve been told many times that I don’t look like a polar explorer … let’s change the image you expect to see,â she added.
She braved intense conditions solo, but was not alone during the trip
Chandi’s journey to the South Pole – and the history books – began years before she left with her sled (she originally estimated the journey would take 45 to 47 days).
She documented everything on her website, which goes by the name “Polar Preet”. A peek behind the curtain: She recorded daily voicemail messages from the ice, which her family members posted on social media on her behalf. The website too followed his position.
But first, there were the years of training and preparation. Already accustomed to endurance events and international climbing trips, Chandi has made polar training expeditions to Greenland and Norway and says she spent months dragging tires wherever she went.
As her start date approached, Chandi gathered her provision of food and equipment, including freeze-dried meals, trail mix bags, a daily ration of hot chocolate and a communication kit with satellite phones, GPS and compass. She mailed it to Punta Arenas, Chile.
A pile of paperwork and several coronavirus tests later, Chandi arrived in Chile in mid-November. From there, it flew to Union Glacier in Antarctica, then another 30 minutes to its starting point, Hercules Inlet. the first official day of his expedition was November 24.
Chandi skied uphill while pulling her sled – which she initially weighed at 87 kilograms, or about 192 pounds – for hours each day, stopping at night to pitch a tent, make her check-in calls and to sleep. It took up to 11 o’clock on some days.
His blog posts describe the intense conditions, with temperatures down to minus 50 degrees Celsius (minus 58 degrees Fahrenheit) and wind speeds of up to 60 miles per hour. There were days of good visibility and full white sails, smooth snow and icy terrain.
Chandi has listened to music (including bhangra) and audiobooks from Will Smith, Amy Poehler, presenter Anita Rani, adventurer Ben Fogle and others. She blogged about various freeze-dried meals and thought about how she would spend the holidays in a typical year. On difficult days, she listened to voice notes left by her friends.
Each post was dedicated to a loved one or sponsor, with a note of gratitude or a favorite memory. She mentioned that she got engaged a few weeks before her trip and used her penultimate message to ask several friends be her bridesmaids.
âI read somewhere that when you ask people to be your bridesmaids it’s okay to do it in a special way,â she wrote.
When Chandi arrived at the South Pole on Monday, it was snowing.
“Feeling so many emotions right now,” read her blog. “I didn’t know anything about the polar world three years ago and it’s so surreal to finally be here. It was difficult to get here and I want to thank everyone for their support.”
This story originally appeared in the Morning edition live blog.