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Antarctica

‘Instagram adventurer’ Colin O’Brady is first person to complete 1,600km solo trek across Antarctica unaided

  • Colin O’Brady finished the bone-chilling journey as friends, family and fans tracked the endurance athlete’s progress in real time online
  • In 2016, British explorer Henry Worsley died attempting an unassisted solo trip across Antarctica
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 December, 2018, 10:33am
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 December, 2018, 8:39pm

An American adventurer has become the first person to complete a solo trek across Antarctica without help of any kind.

Colin O’Brady, 33, took 54 days to complete the nearly 1,600km journey (1,000 miles) crossing of the frozen continent from north to south.

“I accomplished my goal: to become the first person in history to traverse the continent of Antarctica coast to coast solo, unsupported and unaided,” O’Brady wrote in an Instagram post after covering the final 125km in 32 hours.

“While the last 32 hours were some of the most challenging hours of my life, they have quite honestly been some of the best moments I have ever experienced,” he wrote.

“I was locked in a deep flow state the entire time, equally focused on the end goal, while allowing my mind to recount the profound lessons of this journey. I’m delirious writing this as I haven’t slept yet.”

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Day 54: FINISH LINE!!! I did it! The Impossible First . 32 hours and 30 minutes after leaving my last camp early Christmas morning, I covered the remaining ~80 miles in one continuous “Antarctica Ultramarathon” push to the finish line. The wooden post in the background of this picture marks the edge of the Ross Ice Shelf, where Antarctica’s land mass ends and the sea ice begins. As I pulled my sled over this invisible line, I accomplished my goal: to become the first person in history to traverse the continent of Antarctica coast to coast solo, unsupported and unaided. While the last 32 hours were some of the most challenging hours of my life, they have quite honestly been some of the best moments I have ever experienced. I was locked in a deep flow state the entire time, equally focused on the end goal, while allowing my mind to recount the profound lessons of this journey. I’m delirious writing this as I haven’t slept yet. There is so much to process and integrate and there will be many more posts to acknowledge the incredible group of people who supported this project. But for now, I want to simply recognize my #1 who I, of course, called immediately upon finishing. I burst into tears making this call. I was never alone out there. @jennabesaw you walked every step with me and guided me with your courage and strength. WE DID IT!! We turned our dream into reality and proved that The Impossible First is indeed possible. “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” - Nelson Mandela. #TheImpossibleFirst #BePossible

A post shared by Colin O'Brady (@colinobrady) on Dec 26, 2018 at 12:55pm PST

His voyage was tracked by GPS, and live updates of the trip were provided daily on his website colinobrady.com.

O’Brady and an Englishman, Army Captain Louis Rudd, 49, set off individually on November 3 from Union Glacier in a bid to be the first to complete a solo, unassisted crossing of Antarctica.

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In 1996-97, a Norwegian polar explorer, Borge Ousland, made the first solo crossing of Antarctica but he was wind-aided by kites on his voyage.

O’Brady and Rudd set off on cross-country skis dragging sleds called pulks which weighed nearly 180kg (400 pounds).

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Day 44: TAKING STOCK. The reason it’s been often said that this traverse is impossible is because of that fact that without resupply, it’s hard to imagine you can carry enough calories to make it to the end. It’s true; the math is a complicated equation and the room for error is razor thin. In my tent tonight I took out all of the remaining food for a calorie inventory with @jennabesaw I’m so thankful for all of the research and preparation we were able to do with @standardprocess to get my nutrition optimized. These “Colin Bars” have been the life blood of my success so far. Jenna and my mom took a look at what’s left and made a strategic plan. Lucky to have smart women who I trust with my life taking good care to devise the plan. I have to be very disciplined now as I have just enough to hopefully get me to the end, but every calorie is precious at this point. I am choosing to stay in the positive, not dwell on the suffering. Jenna and I live by the saying, “Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.” But the hairy truth of it is...I’ve lost a ton of weight. So much so that I am afraid to take a close look at my body. My calves feel more like the size of my arms at this point. My watch is starting to slide around on my wrist and I’ve had to tighten the strap. However I managed another 20+ mile day on these skinny legs. Fortunately, the most important muscle of all, my mind, keeps willing my body toward the finish one step at a time. #TheImpossibleFirst #BePossible

A post shared by Colin O'Brady (@colinobrady) on Dec 16, 2018 at 5:33pm PST

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Day 42: DREAMS INTO REALITY. Even though I’m 50 miles past the South Pole now, I can’t help but post one more image from the day I arrived - a dream come true. Plus, today is a very historic date. On December 14, 1911, this day exactly 107 years ago, Amundsen became the first person to reach the South Pole. Talk about inspiration. That was a true journey into the unknown that took years and years to complete. I finished a bike ride in 2016 and got the spark of inspiration for this project. I immediately came home and wrote it all down on my whiteboard. Since that day I’ve been working everyday to turn this dream into reality; training, fundraising, researching. The key is that each day I took a step toward making my dream a reality even with countless setbacks and mistakes made along the way, I kept trying. I haven’t realized the dream yet. That’s what I’m doing every day out here...taking step after step to make it come true. Whatever you are dreaming of in life, be that in business, art, music, love, entrepreneurship, sports - it can be anything. Stop just dreaming and take the first step. As in the immortal words of Walt Disney, “If you can dream it, you can do it!!” But dreaming alone won’t get you there. If it’s going to work, action is required. #TheImpossibleFirst #BePossible Shoutout to @samuel.a.harrison for snapping this amazing shot of me. Samuel and another scientist from the South Pole station read about my journey in the @nytimes and came outside to the Pole to cheer me on!

A post shared by Colin O'Brady (@colinobrady) on Dec 14, 2018 at 4:55pm PST

O’Brady reached the South Pole on December 12, the 40th day of his journey.

He arrived at the finish point on the Ross Ice Shelf on the Pacific Ocean on Wednesday after covering a total of 1482km.

Rudd is about a day or two behind.

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O’Brady said he made the decision over breakfast to finish his journey in one continuous push.

“As I was boiling water for my morning oatmeal, a seemingly impossible question popped into my head,” O’Brady wrote on Instagram.

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Day 36: THE LAST DEGREE! I’ve officially crossed into the 89th degree of latitude; the last degree before the South Pole. Each degree is 60 nautical miles (69 statute miles). It’s been a LONG road to get here. I’ve actually crossed the last degree before in 2016 when I broke the world record for the Explorers Grand Slam (Seven Summits and last degree of both Poles). I found just the last degree to be quite challenging in 2016 as it was the very beginning of that project and my first taste of polar expedition life. I remember it being so cold and unforgiving, and the landscape seeming so alien. I’m thrilled that day by day the Pole is getting closer now, but the Pole is not the finish line. Apparently there have been many people curious about how I use the bathroom . This seems like a good time to address this as the last degree has special rules. Normally I just dig a hole in the snow, take care of my business quickly (and try not to get frostbite ), then cover it back up with snow and ice. However, no human waste can be left behind in the last degree to preserve the pristine beauty of Antarctica. As an environmentalist, I love this ethic. Practically speaking, it’s a little undignified as it means pooping into a “wag bag” and carrying it with me. So sadly my sled won’t be getting much lighter each day as I cross the last degree now on both sides of the Pole... #TheImpossibleFirst #BePossible

A post shared by Colin O'Brady (@colinobrady) on Dec 8, 2018 at 5:23pm PST

“I wonder, would (it) be possible to do one straight continuous push all the way to the end?

“By the time I was lacing up my boots the impossible plan had become a solidified goal,” he said. “I’m going to push on and try to finish all 80 miles to the end in one go.”

The New York Times described O’Brady’s effort as among the “most remarkable feats in polar history”, ranking alongside the 1911 “Race to the South Pole” between Norway’s Roald Amundsen and England’s Robert Falcon Scott.

“To complete the final 77.54 miles in one shot – essentially tacking an ultra marathon onto the 53rd day of an already unprecedented journey -set an even higher bar for anyone who tries to surpass it,” the Times wrote.

In 2016, an English army officer, Lieutenant Colonel Henry Worsley, died while trying to complete an unassisted solo crossing of Antarctica.

Agence France-Presse, Associated Press