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Female Sikh Army Officer Aims to Make History

Preet Chandi, a British-born Indian Sikh Army officer set off on Monday on her long quest to Antarctica. Once there, she hopes to become the first woman of colour to ski solo and unsupported to the South Pole.

After flying to Chile, she will be dropped at Antarctica's Hercules Inlet. From there, Chandi will trek solo 700 miles across the ice to the pole, hauling a sled weighing 90 kilos (nearly 200 pounds) with all her kit and food for around 45 days.

The sun will never set but temperatures could dip as low as minus 50C (minus 58F) with wind chill. Her only contact with the outside world will be a daily check-in with her support team. Chandi, who has adopted the nickname "Polar Preet" for her blog (PolarPreetNews) and fundraising efforts, has spent two and a half years preparing for the grueling expedition.

The 32-year-old pulled a tyre across the streets of Derby for her training and said she hopes to inspire other people to "push boundaries".

She said people at her local gurdwara (a Sikh place of worship) were surprised she was undertaking the challenge. "A lot of people tell me I don't look like a polar explorer," said Capt Chandi, an army physiotherapist. "It's considered out of the norm for an Asian woman to do this - it's different. And that's part of the reason why I wanted to do this - for people who don't fit a certain image," she told the BBC.

Capt Chandi, from Sinfin, joined the Army aged 19 and completed the Marathon des Sables - a 156-mile race across the Sahara Desert - in 2019. Under the name "Polar Preet" she has spent two years training, including a 27-day trip to Greenland where she faced extreme weather conditions.

She hopes to complete the trek over 45 days by January next year.


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