An army physio is believed to have become the first woman of colour to trek solo across Antarctica in what the Prime Minister hailed as an “extraordinary” achievement.
Preet Chandi, who had to endure temperatures of minus 50C, completed her 700-mile challenge almost a week ahead of schedule, skiing from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole in 40 days, seven hours and three minutes.
The 32-year-old, from Derby, 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, the British Army said.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “What an extraordinary achievement. Congratulations Captain Preet Chandi.”
During the trek, she had to tackle 60mph winds while pulling a 90kg sled and suffered from exhaustion towards the end of the journey, as well as a persistent cough and sickness.
Ms Chandi, a captain with 3 Medical Regiment, said: “I’m feeling so many emotions right now.
“I knew nothing about the polar world three years ago and it feels so surreal to finally be here.
“It was tough getting here and I want to thank everybody for their support.”
Ms Chandi, who is now the third fastest woman to trek across the continent, and the first person to reach the South Pole on foot in two years, continued: “This expedition was always about so much more than me.
“I want to encourage people to push their boundaries and to believe in themselves, and I want you to be able to do it without being labelled a rebel.
“I have been told ‘No’ on many occasions and to ‘just do the normal thing’, but we create our own normal. You are capable of anything you want.
“No matter where you are from or where your start line is, everybody starts somewhere. I don’t want to just break the glass ceiling; I want to smash it into a million pieces.”
Brigadier Elizabeth Faithfull-Davies CBE, Commander 102 Logistic Brigade, said: “I have been watching Polar Preet’s Antarctic endeavours with admiration and awe as I have seen her maintain incredible distances and pace every single day of her expedition.
“I am absolutely delighted to hear that she has achieved her ambition of reaching the South Pole and so proud that she has demonstrated how much we can all achieve if we set our minds to it.
“She is an inspiration to us all and she is a fabulous role model as the first woman of colour to complete this impressive feat.”