In­trepid Mchunu sets sail for the North Pole

Cape Times - - NEWS - Francesca Vil­lette

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.

francesca.vil­lette@inl.co.za

LUNGI MCHUNU

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