An epic adventure - the race across Antarctica | International Antarctic Centre

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An epic adventure – the race across Antarctica

At the end of 2018 two men made an incredible journey into the record books, each individually following the path that original explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton had planned on his journey to the south pole and across the continent.

In this day and age you could be forgiven for thinking most travel-related ‘firsts’ have been achieved. But there are still many journeys to be taken and a select few modern-day explorers are stepping up and entering the record books completing such epic adventures.

Before December last year nobody had ever crossed the Antarctic unaided. Others have done so using food supplies dropped along the route, or aided by large kites and the winds to speed their quest. However none have done so simply with the strength of their own bodies.

Two men left the Ronne ice shelf aiming first for the south pole and then, eventually, the Ross ice shelf on the far side.

American Colin O’Brady took the honours in the unofficial ‘race’. The endurance athlete walked unaided across 1500 kms of treacherous Antarctic ice, dragging enough food so he could consume roughly the 10,000 calories needed daily to fuel the journey. He covered the last 77.54 miles over 32 hours without sleep, the equivalent of an ‘Antarctic ultramarathon’.

O’Brady was followed less than two days later by Louis Rudd, the British explorer taking 2 additional days in his crossing. The stakes were high with such a crossing. Antarctica is an incredibly isolated and hazardous landscape.

In 2016 Henry Worsley died of organ failure after being air-lifted from the ice while attempting the same course. The British former army officer was only 30 miles from his destination, an incredible 913 miles across the ice, when he succumbed to exhaustion and severe dehydration

The adventure also captured the imagination of the world due to the nature of the tight race (both men left on the same day) and the constraints of travelling ‘unaided’ (for example, neither could even visit the scientific station at the south pole on their way without being disqualified).

This was a truly inspiring mission by both men, proving we can still push the boundaries of what’s possible. The continent will continue to test humanity’s ability to survive.


Photo credits: & Colin O’Brady

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