Intrepid Mchunu sets sail for the North Pole
IF ALL goes according to plan, 34-year-old Lungi Mchunu of KwaZulu-Natal will become the first African woman to sail to the North Pole.
Mchunu flew on Wednesday to Germany, from where she and her crew members left on their journey today.
They are sailing in a wooden boat built in 1945. Mchunu is in charge of navigation, and will operate the sonar equipment.She had a fear of being on the open seas until she suddenly decided to enjoy braving the ocean elements while at anchor during a sailing trip.
“I realised that I loved being out there. There’s a line by a Spanish sailor that better describes how I felt after my first week offshore: ‘In search of individuality, I found the universe’,” she said.
Mchunu is taking on the challenge to inspire women who have been marginalised in the male-dominated activity, and to raise awareness of climate change.
She said that before she started sailing she didn’t know much about climate change and how it affected the oceans.
“Scientists refer to oceans as the world’s refrigerator. They keep the planet cool and play a critical role in regulating global temperatures and counteracting climate change. To bring it closer to home, if the Arctic ice continues to melt at the rate that it has, the heat waves that South Africans have been experiencing will become worse. So will drought, which is already affecting our agricultural sector.”
She advises women to dream big and work every day to realise their dreams, and that every step taken matters, no matter how small.
“Start where you are, with what you have. Everything you need to realise your dreams is within you; helping hands are always there but it all starts with you. Find your limit and go beyond it.”
Mchunu is documenting her journey, and Canon SA have supplied her with a camera and a lens.
She and the crew plan to sail from Rostock, Germany to Longyearbyen, Svalbard and Ny-Alesund in Norway, before heading to the North Pole.
They are expected to leave the Arctic in the first week of September, before ice forms at the end of the polal summer.