Lungi Mchunu is to become the first African woman to sail to the North Pole.
Durban - Selected as part of a groundbreaking expedition, KwaZulu-Natal’s Lungi Mchunu is to become the first African woman to sail to the North Pole.

Mchunu, 34, who was born in Msinga, north of Greytown, is expected to arrive in Rostock, Germany today from where she will set sail for the Arctic. “We have been training for the past 10 months so I’m anxious to get going,” she said.

The expedition is organised by German NGO World Arctic Fund, which focuses on protecting the Arctic by supporting the work of researchers.

Mchunu, who works at the Joburg office of an international bank, said she started sailing two years ago to overcome her fear of open seas.

“The first night was a little daunting but the next sunrise was absolute bliss. I remember taking a siesta at anchorage when I realised that I loved being out there.”

She said sailing opened her eyes to ocean health and climate change issues and humanity's contribution to their deterioration.

Part of the research on the expedition will be to check how far north plastic pollution has reached.

“We have no one to blame but ourselves, and we’re also the solution,” she said.

Mchunu wants to bring the climate change message home.

“While most people will never travel to the Arctic, it touches our daily lives in more ways than we realise.

“Scientists refer to it as the world’s refrigerator, it keeps the planet cool and plays 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 heatwaves that South Africans have been experiencing will become worse, so will drought.

“The fieldwork that we will be doing is aimed at being proactive by studying the ice melting rate and how it affects the weather patterns.”

Mchunu will document her journey at https://lungisails.wordpress.com/ and with a sponsorship from Canon will capture video and photos she hopes will paint a picture of what human behaviour is doing to the planet.

The Mercury