‘Polar Preet' aims to inspire next generation of adventurers
An Army medic who became the first woman of colour to trek across Antarctica has said she wants to inspire others to dream big.
Preet Chandi, 33, from Derby, last month skied from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole in 40 days, seven hours and three minutes.
She narrowly missed out on the time set by Johanna Davidsson of Sweden, the fastest female to complete a solo expedition of the continent, who finished in 38 days, 23 hours and 55 minutes in 2016.
This week she is in Northern Ireland, talking to school pupils, hoping to inspire others to do something big and push their boundaries.
She revealed to the pupils at Strathearn School in east Belfast that as she endured temperatures of minus 50C skiing across 700 miles of the frozen plain, she was inspired by the movie character Dory to “just keep going”.
“I chose Antarctica because I didn’t know much about it, I started with an internet search, I looked at different images of people that were polar explorers, no-one looked anything like me,” she told the PA news agency.
“I figured out where I needed to train, took annual leave. One of my big training trips in Greenland cost me my life savings and about six to seven months to pay off. It was hard to get there, it really was.
“And then about six months before I went, I got offered to do it as part of the Army, which is really cool – I can’t think of many jobs where you could do something like this as part of your job.
“It took me two-and-a-half years to get there, and that two and a half years was hard, it was during Covid, having to train, getting out of the country, and I just thought about that when I was there for those 40 days, how tough it was to get there, and hopefully how many people I’d inspire.
“I went into this not knowing anything about Antarctica, I didn’t grow up dreaming about going to the South Pole, or reading about polar explorers, but how incredible is that, to show other people you can dream big, you don’t have to be born into that world or know anything about it.”
Ms Chandi joined the Army reserves at the age of 19 after seeing an advert, but admitted she initially did not tell anyone in her family about her decision due to views in the community she grew up in.
“It took me about a week to tell them and there were a few people who were against me joining but I had done it by then.
“I think a lot of that is education, they didn’t really know much about it,” she said.
“I joined as a private soldier, a combat medical technician.
“The first time I ever went camping was with the Army, it opened up a different world to me.”
She later became an officer after going to university, and said she did not bring any family to her commissioning parade.
“It wasn’t until I joined the regular Army about six years ago that I did invite family and obviously they were proud and could see all the different things I had done and achieved in the Army,” she said.
“I think part of it before was my fault, a lot of the different things I was doing, people didn’t understand and weren’t supportive of so I started to downplay them after a while, like running marathons.
“The more you do, the more you realise you’re capable of … I found the more I was doing in the Army, the more I did in my civilian life.”