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First man to solo across Antarctica unaided

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The final miles of a nearly two-month race across Antarctica — a lonely effort marked by long days, short nights and stunning endurance — ended on Wednesday with a sprint to the finish.

In what could go down as one of the great feats in polar history, American Colin O’Brady, 33, covered the final 77.54 miles of the 921-mile journey across Antarctica in one final sleepless, 32-hour burst, becoming the first person ever to traverse Antarctica from coast to coast solo, unsupported and unaided by wind.

O’Brady’s transcontinental feat, which took him an actual total of 932 miles with some zigzags along the course, was remarkable enough; but to complete the final 77.54 miles in one shot — essentially tacking an ultramarathon onto the 53rd day of an already unprecedented journey — set an even higher bar for anyone who tries to surpass it.

“I don’t know, something overcame me,” O’Brady said in a telephone interview. “I just felt locked in for the last 32 hours, like a deep flow state. I didn’t listen to any music — just locked in, like I’m going until I’m done. It was profound, it was beautiful, and it was an amazing way to finish up the project.” In the nearly two months racing on his own, O’Brady took only one half-day off — on November 29, he lost a skin from his ski and was forced to set up camp early, reglue the skin and lick his wounds.

O’Brady’s culminating effort joined some of the most remarkable achievements in polar history, including expeditions led by Norway’s Roald Amundsen and by Robert Falcon Scott of England, who battled Amundsen to become the first to reach the magnetic South Pole. There was also Borge Ousland’s magnificent traverse in 1996-97, when he became the first to cross the continent alone and unsupported — though he was aided by a kite.

Since then, at least three others have tried to duplicate Ousland’s feat without kites, raising the stakes and trimming the margin for error by several degrees. O’Brady became the first to succeed when he reached the finish early on Wednesday afternoon, the 54th day of his journey.

In 2016, Henry Worsley, an Englishman and a Special Forces veteran, died days after being airlifted from the ice for his own attempt. He had covered over 900 miles and came within 126 miles of the finish. In 2017, another Englishman, Ben Saunders, gave up the same quest at the South Pole. As of Wednesday, still another Englishman, Louis Rudd, 49, a close friend of Worsley’s, was on the ice.

Rudd had been racing O’Brady from the Messner Start on the Ronne Ice Shelf to the Ross Ice Shelf at the foot of Leverett Glacier. The two adventurers departed Punta Arenas, Chile, on Halloween and then the Antarctic Logistics & Expeditions base camp at Union Glacier on November 3. https://www.telegraphindia.com/world/first-man-to-solo-across-antarctica-unaided/cid/1680093

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