JEDDAH: Saudi diver Mariam Al-Fardous, renowned for being the first Saudi and Arab woman to dive at the North Pole, is preparing to dive at the South Pole in February. This will earn her the title of the first female two-poles diver.
In 2016, she made history by becoming not only the first Arab woman to dive at the North Pole, but only the third woman worldwide to do it.
Al-Fardous, 33, is a physician, epidemiologist and graduate of King Abdul Aziz University.
She also holds a master’s degree in epidemiology and biostatistics from King Saud bin Abdul Aziz University for Health Sciences. Aside from her medical background and her significant sports achievement, she is a dedicated humanitarian and was appointed as an African Impact Ambassador in 2015.
Al-Fardous is driven by social and environmental goals, and has established a specialized diving center for people with special needs.
She is currently preparing for her Antarctic diving experience in late February, after completing her physical training at a specialized institute in Russia.
Al-Fardous describes her forthcoming challenge as completely different from the first one in terms of the geographical location, the nature of the currents of the Antarctic and the aquatic life she might encounter, such as black whales, seals and penguins, which will be in the migration phase in February, from the north to the south.
In a television interview with Saudi magazine Sayidaty in 2017, she explained how the idea of diving at the two poles began.
“It started when I was chatting with a friend and he asked ‘Why don’t we dive at the North Pole?’ At that time, in 2015, I did not have much information about the place. I just knew that it was an ocean but I did not know many details.
“Then I researched it and concluded that it deserves to be explored. Fewer than 1 percent of the population worldwide — if I’m talking about ever since humanity was created, up until now — fewer than 1 percent were able to reach this place. About 30 people were able to dive in this place.”
She said it is, of course, in the nature of a diver to look for a new challenge to learn new skills, and to search for a new environment.
“This was what motivated me, for me to try new challenges and completely different skills,” she said. “When I first started ice diving — and 10 years prior to that, in 2008, I was diving — it was as if I knew nothing about the subject. It was a completely different experience. I knew the basics, but I needed more time as it was a new skill to learn and perfect; the safety system and how to prepare for it.”
She explained the difference between normal scuba diving and ice diving: “Here at the beach, you can ride a boat and dive in any part of the water. But over there, you cannot. You have to dive in from a certain opening on the surface and come out from the same opening.
She also explained that a rope attached to the diver’s body is also a means to communicate with the person on the surface in case of an emergency. “Allah forbid, if you experienced any type of emergency, your body is attached,” she said.
“There is a rope in your hands, there is someone present at the opening and every 30 seconds you pull the rope as a signal that you are fine.
“If 30 seconds pass without the rope being pulled, he will pull the rope in an attempt to communicate with you to ensure you are OK. This coordination is very important.”