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Harpreet Chandi breaks barriers with solo trip to Antarctica

Isolation has been forced a lot in time coronavirus pandemic. But for Harpreet “Preet” Chandi, a 32-year-old captain in the British Army, it was a choice on the path towards a larger goal.

On January 3, after a journey that involved traveling alone for 40 days across 700 miles of ice, Ms Chandi carved her name into polar history, seemingly becoming the first woman of color to walk. unaccompanied and unaccompanied travel to Antarctica.

There are no official records of attempts made to travel to Antarctica. But Ms Chandi was widely reported by the British press as the first woman of color to complete the expedition alone and without assistance.

While the expedition was a challenge to test her physical and mental resilience, for Ms Chandi it was also a way to reclaim India’s Punjabi heritage, which she said that she felt ashamed as a teenager.

“I am not the image people expect to see,” Ms. Chandi said. “I was told, ‘You don’t really look like a polar explorer.’ Then change that image.”

She joins the likes of Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, whose first expedition to the South Pole was in 1911, and Liv Arnesen, another Norwegian who in 1994 became a woman. completed the first solo trip to Antarctica.

Ms. Chandi who passed by”Polar Preet“Online, began her expedition on November 24 at Hercules Inlet, about 10,000 miles, as the crows mined, from her home in Derby, England.

Most days she averages 11 hours of skiingbut sometimes keep it for almost 20 o’clockEnduring temperatures down to minus 58 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 50 degrees Celsius) and extreme winds of up to 60 miles per hour.

Chandi pulled a pulley – a Nordic sled – named after her granddaughter Simran, and loaded it with nearly 200 pounds of equipment, including freeze-dried meals. Her food includes a variety of energy-rich foods, including nuts, chocolate, cheeses and Italian sausages, which she packed in Punta Arenas, Chile, before setting off for Antarctica.

As a hiking enthusiast who has run several marathons – including Marathon des Sables is 140 miles long across the Sahara in Morocco, one of the hardest races in the world – Ms. Chandi knows a thing or two about endurance. But she knew nothing about Antarctica when she began preparing for her expedition three years ago.

“I actually started doing research on Google: ‘What do I do? Do I run? What do I even have to do to move out there? ”, she said, speaking from Antarctica last month on her satellite phone.

Ms Chandi said that prior to her expedition, some online commenters didn’t seem to understand her race was a significant part of her effort to reach the South Pole.

“”Military officer” is written everywhere – it is acceptable to everyone. If I were described as a ‘woman,’ that would be acceptable to everyone,” she said. “But as soon as my skin color was mentioned, suddenly, a lot of people had problems. .

“I probably wouldn’t have used the term ‘women of color’ just over six months ago, just because I was worried about how people might view it,” added Chandi. My skin color is important, it’s part of who I am.”

Ms. Chandi was born in Derby, northern England, and her competitive spirit was evident in her early teens, when she spent several years playing tennis at academies in England and the Czech Republic.

But her experience was tinged with a different feeling. She said an episode at a tournament in which she and another competitor, a Black, got into a fight, was a sign of the racism that was rampant in her youth. “For a long time, I can’t really remember enjoying it,” she said of her tennis training.

At the age of 19, Ms. Chandi returned to England. A chance encounter with members of the army in her local city center led her to join the British Army Reserve. “I didn’t tell my family that I was involved, because for some people from my background, in my community, it’s not a normal thing to do,” she said. At this time, she also attended university to work as a physiotherapist technician.

Ms. Chandi eventually chose a military career. Over the years, her mission has taken her to Kenya, Nepal and South Sudan, where outdoor camping became part of her training.

Her first ultramarathon in her 20s, in England’s Peak District, fueled an insatiable thirst for challenge. In a fortuitous moment, her former boss Chandi mentioned that she might embark on an expedition to Antarctica. “Once it was in my head, that was it,” she said.

With no polar experience, Ms. Chandi quickly began her training, starting in Norway in March 2020. Greenland, a location many have described to her as a “polar tourism university” ,” became her next training ground that December.

In August 2021, when the coronavirus travel restrictions were eased, she traveled to Langjokull Glacier in the west of Iceland.

But with the stifling travel of the pandemic, Ms. Chandi’s ability to train abroad is limited. “The focus of her training is towing tires around Derby, which most polar explorers would not consider the best place to train to Antarctica,” said her commanding officer, China. Colonel Gareth Hattersley said. “But that’s what she ended up doing, to great success.”

Ms Chandi spent her life savings to fund her 27-day training expedition to Greenland, which ended in a hugely expensive emergency by helicopter, after she and her partner Her guide is caught up in a relentless storm. She had to raise about $109,000 from corporate sponsors to finance her expedition.

During her trip, Antarctica was in daylight 24 hours, so Ms Chandi slept in a tent with a hat covering her eyes. Perhaps surprisingly, her journey never crossed the line. “It was all very difficult to get to Antarctica,” she said. Aside from Ms. Chandi’s GPS navigation system, the only sign she was anywhere near her final destination was a weather station she passed.

Although there was no internet service, Ms. Chandi used a satellite phone to send pictures and messages to her partner and sister-in-law. They then posted them to her over 40,000 Instagram followers.

During her Antarctic journey, she listened to audiobooks by writers who shared her legacy. “It felt like I was delivering their voices in places where they might not be heard,” she said.

When she made the last few miles to the pole, exhausted and now coughing, Chandi said she started hallucinating. But the hardest part of the journey, she says, was transporting her heavy load through the sastrugi – snow-like speed bumps that can stretch for miles.

Upon reaching the geographic South Pole, Chandi celebrated by drinking a Coke. “I remember thinking, ‘It’s all worth it,’” she said. “The fact that I’m here, a Punjabi girl from Derby, is unbelievable.”

After safely returning to the UK on January 17, Ms Chandi wrote in a home blog post about the “simple things” she missed on her expedition: “Sitting on the toilet, sleeping on the bed, drinking a coke (it must be added to the list…). I spent the weekend sleeping a lot, seeing my family and eating out.” Perhaps one thing she doesn’t remember, she says, is the non-stop daylight in Antarctica’s summer. “It’s nice to sleep when it’s dark.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/16/world/europe/preet-chandi-south-pole-expedition.html Harpreet Chandi breaks barriers with solo trip to Antarctica

Fry Electronics Team

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