Indian-origin British Sikh Army officer and physiotherapist Captain Harpreet Chandi has created history by becoming the first 'woman of colour' to successfully complete an unsupported solo expedition to the South Pole on January 3.
Chandi, also known as Polar Preet, announced her history-making feat on her live blog after travelling 700 miles (1,127 km) at the end of Day 40. She carried a sledge weighing around 100 kgs and contained fuel, food and medicines, which was supposed to last for 45 days. Chandi battled cold temperatures of minus 50 degrees Celsius and wind speeds of nearly 60mph, besides fighting with illness and isolation.
Battling Frigid Temperatures
"I made it to the South Pole where it is snowing. I am feeling so many emotions currently. I knew nothing about the polar world three years ago and it feels so surreal to finally be here and I want to thank everybody for their support," she wrote in her blog 'Polar Preet' via a post.
The 32-year-old uploaded a live tracking map of her expedition and posted regular blogs about her snow-capped journey.
Chandi also received 24 hours of sunlight as the sun does not set in Antarctica for nearly four months during spring and summer. The spring season begins in September and lasts till November, while the summer season starts in December and ends in February, News18 reported.
"You are capable of anything you want. No matter where you are from or where your start line is, everybody starts somewhere. I don't want to just break the glass ceiling. I want to smash it into a million pieces," she wrote.
Currently based in London, she is pursuing her part-time master's degree in Sports and Exercise Medicine at Queen Mary's University in London. She had also dragged around two large tyres over a few months for her polar training as a substitute for the heavy sledge she has been pushing along in Antarctica.
"It definitely feels colder in the last degree where I'm at higher altitude. I haven't seen anyone here in the last degree and now I'm 15 nautical miles from the South Pole. I can't believe I'm almost there," she wrote a day before achieving the feat.
Chandi prepared for her solo trek by undergoing crevice training in the French Alps and trekked across Iceland's Langjökull Glacier. She also endured 27 days on the ice cap in Greenland and carried heavy tires on her back when she was in England to prepare for the South Pole expedition.
She also used her time in the freezing cold to think about her wedding plans. She has been engaged to Army reservist fiance David Jarman before setting off her expedition. The couple is set to meet in Chile when she returns from the South Pole in late January.
Chandi says she has always been interested in pushing the human body to its limits, which allows her to look at this from a research perspective. She is also the Medical Lead for the Army Rugby 7s team, works with the Army Engagement team on an ad hoc basis, and promotes the Army's opportunities. She also plays tennis competitively for the Army.
Being a part of a Medical Regiment in the northwest of England, Chandi's primary role is to organise and validate training for Army medics as Clinical Training Officer.
The athlete has completed large-scale exercises and deployments in Nepal, Kenya, and a six-month United Nations peacekeeping tour to South Sudan. She has been hiking and climbing trips in Kenya, Morocco, Mexico, the Alps, Bolivia, Peru, Iceland, Nepal and many more.
"Anything ambitious can feel out of reach at the beginning but every bit of training I complete brings me closer to my goal. My training expeditions in Greenland and Norway have helped prepare me and my goal is now in reach," she said before setting off for the South Pole in November.