In 2021, British Army officer Preet Chandi — also known as Polar Preet — was one of the first women to make a solo, unsupported expedition to the South Pole.
A year later, Chandi set out to break not just one, but two world records in another trip to Antarctica. Despite being isolated in the freezing cold, she defied the odds and made the longest unassisted expedition to the South Pole and also beat the overall record.
Hailing from Derby, UK, Captain Chandi has traversed a total of 1,485 kilometers (922 miles), blinded by blistering cold winds in extremely cold temperatures, taking about 70 days and 16 hours to complete the enormous journey.
With this record, she beat former Lieutenant Colonel Henry Worsley, who passed away from an illness caught during his crossing of Antarctica in 2015. He managed to travel 1,459 kilometers (907 miles) before he was evacuated to a hospital in Chile.
“It was the toughest thing I’ve ever done,” she said of her challenge, the BBC wrote.
“It feels incredible to have traveled such a distance, though it was always about so much more than a record,” she added. “I’m just grateful that Antarctica allowed me safe passage for my journey.”
Chandi said that her second trek was more difficult than her previous one, saying that “the conditions were harder this season.” According to the Washington Post, the snow was softer, making her supply-filled sled heavier. There were times where the winds blew her sled to the side, forcing her to bring the 220-pound cargo back up.
Alas, she persisted and kept going to the end before being safely sent for recovery. Guided with nothing but a compass, she also had a satellite phone to keep in touch with her support team and her partner. She even sent updates to her blog, “Polar Preet”, to record her journey.
Pushed by a Jan. 22 deadline, Chandi pressed on, fighting all the way until she got on her plane back to her base camp.
“I just thought to myself, ‘If you’re going to push yourself, if you’re ever going to push yourself, this is the time,’” she said. “And I’m glad I did. Because now I know there’s nothing I could have done differently.”
Back home in England, Chandi reportedly has not left her house, recovering from weight loss and an injured calf. She’s not sure what she plans to do next.
“I don’t necessarily have any plans at the moment,” she said. “But… I’m already feeling restless.”
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Training against the elements
Chandi first made the trek through the South Pole in January 2022, becoming the first woman of color to finish a solo expedition on the freezing continent. On that journey, she traveled 700 miles in 40 days.
Before her Antarctic adventures, she completed an ultramarathon in the Sahara Desert that lasted for six days, traversing 156 miles across fields of sand.
Prior to the first trek, Chandi was told by a logistics company that plans Antarctic expeditions that she “lacked the experience” to make the trek. Thus, she went to Iceland and attempted to climb glaciers.
She also trained for two years, running around Derby while pulling a tyre. She also stayed in Greenland for 27 days, adapting her body to the cold climate in preparation for the much colder Antarctica.
She initially wanted to spend more than 70 days in the South Pole, but had to cut it down to 40 days to test the waters before she could do the real trip.
“I wanted to encourage people to push boundaries and believe in themselves,” she said.