History-making Army officer ‘Polar Preet’ Chandi returned home to a hero’s welcome today greeted by loved ones and colleagues.
The 32-year-old became the first woman of colour to complete a solo expedition in Antarctica when she reached the South Pole on January 3rd.
Finishing the 700-mile trek from Hercules Inlet in just 40 days, 7 hours, and 3 minutes – a daily average distance of around 17 miles – she narrowly missed setting a new world record by a woman and is now the third fastest female solo skier for this expedition.
Her achievement was all the more remarkable given a number of other South Pole expeditions failed to reach their goal this season and that Preet is the first person to reach the South Pole on foot in two years.
She battled on, pulling a sled weighing 14-stone over deep wave-like ridges on the hard snow and through whiteouts, in temperatures as low as -50C, wind speeds of up to 60mph, while suffering from a persistent cough, sickness and exhaustion.
Speaking on her arrival at Heathrow Airport, Preet, who is a Captain and physiotherapist with 3 Medical Regiment, said:
“It’s so great to be back, I’m so happy to see my partner, friends and so many people from the military here as well. I’ve never had so many people meet me at and airport before! It feels surreal going from being on my own to being surrounded by everyone.”
Among those at the airport were broadcast media all keen to talk to Preet about her adventure and interest from news outlets worldwide has been extraordinary.
“The reaction has been great, and I just hope people are inspired by it. At some point I felt deep down it would get a reaction and it’s been amazing. That wasn’t the primary objective, but it will help to show people that you can do whatever you set your mind to, so I’m delighted with that.”
Preet says she will enjoy the weekend off with her fiancé, who proposed just before she set off in mid-November, and her family and can’t wait to meet her new-born nephew.
But the rest and relaxation won’t last long as she will be straight into training for her next challenge – to become the first woman to complete a solo unsupported coast to coast crossing of Antarctica.