Harpreet Chandi: First woman of colour to reach South Pole solo

Polar Preet braves -50°C & 420 kmph winds for 4200 km trek

Diaspora

January 6, 2022

/ By / New Delhi

Harpreet Chandi: First woman of colour to reach South Pole solo

Chandi's ticket to Antarctica (Photo: Instagram)

Captain Harpreet Chandi aka Polar Preet becomes the first British-born Indian Sikh woman and woman of colour to complete a solo unsupported trip to the South pole. She is a British Army officer who completed her trip of over 4200 km in just 40 days.

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Slowly sledging in the snow withstanding the extreme temperature of -50° C with wind speeds up to 420 kmph, Captain Harpreet Chandi completed her journey to one of the ends of the Earth. In just 40 days she completed her 4200 km journey inspiring women across the globe.

During her trip, Chandi kept a blog giving her daily updates. Upon reaching her destination she wrote, “Hello everyone, checking in from day 40. I made it to the South Pole where it’s snowing. Feeling so many emotions right now. I knew nothing about the polar world three years ago and it feels so surreal to finally be here. It was tough getting here and I want to thank everybody for their support.”

The 32-year-old joined the British Army Reserves at the age of 19 and six years later the regular army. She is part of a Medical Regiment in the northwest of England, and her primary role is to organise and validate training for medics in the Army as Clinical Training Officer. Currently based in London, she is completing her master’s degree in Sports and Exercise Medicine, part-time, at Queen Mary’s University in London.

She started planning for her trip two years ago despite having no experience in trekking or Antarctica. She began her journey on November 24, from Hercules Inlet in Antarctica after being dropped by a Twin Otter plane with all her supplies and a small Nordic sledge which she used to complete her journey. Her supplies weighed around 87 kgs including the freeze-dried meals and a small cooker. Every day she skied for eleven hours, each night putting up her tent, melting snow to drink water, and cooking her freeze-dried dishes such as pork pasta. Apart from the journey being difficult she also suffered from diarrhoea and vomiting on the day after Christmas, she said on her blog.

Music, especially the genre of Bhangra and artists such as Diljit Dosanjh and Jay Sean kept her company. During her trip, she kept herself busy by planning her wedding. While nearing the South Pole, she asked her friends to be her bridesmaid. In a post, she wrote, “I read somewhere that when you ask people to be your bridesmaids it’s nice to do it in a special way, so all the way from Antarctica I would love nothing more than for you to be my bridesmaids. Sonia Chandi, Rachel Tucker-Norton, Kamal Dhamrait, Tig Bridge, Hannah Sawford (or Hannah Smith now) and Collette Davey. I love you all and would love you to be my bridesmaids.”

Apart from Chandi, very few women have completed the unsupported journey in Antarctica, starting with Liv Arnesen from Norway in 1994. Chandi wants to add more names and diversity to that list, in the hopes of inspiring future generations to pursue their goals and push 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,” she wrote on her blog.

Apart from her mission to inspire, Chandi is also on a mission to help the less fortunate. She had set up an online fundraiser for her journey and promised that she will use half of the funds to cover her medical, training and logistical expenses and the other half to set up a yearly adventure grant for women.

The grant, however, doesn’t have to involve trips to Antarctica but as long as it helped people to “conduct unique adventures” and “push their boundaries” the grant will help them in doing so. She is also raising money for Khalsa Aid, an international NGO that works to provide humanitarian aid in disaster areas and civil conflict zones. Khalsa Aid also assisted the farmers in India during their year-long protest against the three controversial farm laws. They provided medical aid and support to the farmers as well as the residents nearby the area.

In a post, Chandi also mentioned that she was proud to be a woman of colour and glad that she embarked on this mission. In one of her updates, she recollected that people used to throw spit at her and throw eggs just because she looked different, it took a long time for her to embrace her roots and admire her skin colour and the culture she belongs to and now she is proud to be the first woman of colour to complete this gallant journey.

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