“Polar Preet” – First Solo Antarctic Expedition by a Woman of Color | Polarjournal
Captain Harpreet Chandi, a young British woman, is the first woman with Indian roots to undertake an unassisted expedition to the South Pole. She started today. Photo: Harpreet Chandi

Antarctica holds an enormous attraction for many people around the world. Most of them are overjoyed to set foot on the white continent once in their lives, to feel its vastness but also its silence and its vulnerability and, last but not least, to meet its animal inhabitants. But some people are looking for more – for the challenge to overcome their own limits, to withstand the unforgiving elements and to grow beyond themselves on their own. Among these people is Harpreet Chandi, a physiotherapist and captain in the British Army. The British woman with Indian roots started her solo Antarctic expedition to the South Pole today.

For the next 45 to 47 days, Harpreet Chandi will be on her own for more than 1,100 kilometers, dragging her pulka with 87 kilograms of equipment and food behind her over snow and ice, in temperatures as low as minus 50 degrees Celsius and wind speeds of up to 100 kilometers per hour. Chandi is the first woman of color to undertake such an expedition.

After landing at Union Glacier, Harpreet Chandi flew on to her starting point and as of today is on her way to the South Pole. Map: Julia Hager/Google Earth; Photo: Harpreet Chandi

About two and a half years ago, Chandi came up with the idea of reaching the South Pole alone. With her project, known as “Polar Preet”, she wants to bring diversity to Antarctic expedition history, which has so far seen only a few women and certainly no “Woman of Color”. On the other hand, she hopes her expedition, which takes her far beyond her comfort zone, will inspire others to push their boundaries as well. As she writes on her website, “this journey aims to inspire future generations in achieving whatever they desire and pushing boundaries. By promoting and completing this challenge, it allows me to act as a role model to young people, women and those from ethnic backgrounds.”

“I’ve always had this idea that I can achieve something great, something that allows me to be a role model. I want my 8 year old niece to grow up without boundaries, knowing the possibilities of what you can achieve in life are endless.”

Captain Harpreet Chandi

In preparation for her expedition, Chandi completed several marathons, including one of the toughest ultramarathons, other athletic challenges, and, of course, numerous workouts: ski training, crevasse training, Greenland crossing, solo trekking training in Iceland, and regular running training over the past two years, dragging first one, then two large car tires behind her to simulate the weight of the pulka. At the same time she graduated with a Master of Science in Physical Therapy with distinction.

In preparation for the expedition, Harpreet Chandi completed an extensive training programme, with pulling the 87-kilogram pulka being particularly important. Photos: Harpreet Chandi

The logistics surrounding their expedition are handled by Antarctic Logistics and Expeditions, providers of Antarctic tourism expeditions and logistics services to support responsible tourism in Antarctica. After flying from Punta Arenas, Chile, to Union Glacier in Antarctica, Chandi was flown aboard a Twin Otter to her starting point in Hercules Inlet. From here she started today with her fully packed pulka towards the South Pole. With two satellite phones, GPS including stored waypoints, map, compass and food for 48 days, she is well equipped and should in the best case arrive at the pole on January 7, 2022.

During her military career as a Clinical Training Officer, she participated in missions to Nepal, Kenya and South Sudan, and undertook hiking and climbing trips in Morocco, Mexico, the Alps, Bolivia, Peru, Iceland and Nepal. Former Army Captain Louis Rudd, the first Briton to cross Antarctica in 2018, is Chandi’s expedition leader and advisor during her training.

The expedition is financially supported by the British Forces Broadcasting Services (BFBS) and other sponsors.

Before Harpreet Chandi, several Women of Color have reached the South Pole with support, such as Barbara Hillary, who stood at the Pole in 2011 at the age of 79, and the women of the Kaspersky Commonwealth Antarctic Expedition in 2009.

Julia Hager, PolarJournal

Link to “Polar Preet” website: https://polarpreet.com/

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