The Impossible First: From Fire to Ice – Crossing Antarctica Alone: O’Brady, Colin
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The Impossible First: From Fire to Ice – Crossing Antarctica Alone

Author(s): O’Brady, Colin

Copyright: 2020, US
Specifications: 1st, 8vo, pp.xi, 279, 48 color photos, map, blue cloth
Condition: dj & cloth new

Over the past 100 years, since Ernest Shackleton’s aborted attempt to cross the Antarctic in 1914-17, there have been a number of attempts to make a solo crossing of the continent by various means. As of 2020 there have been 16 successful traverses of Antarctica, but all have either been supported by additional food and fuel drops or have deployed kites — or both. Much has been made of these expeditions and they are judged against one another using several criteria: distance and route, solo vs group, unsupported (ie. without food/fuel depots), and degree of aid (ie. without kites, mechanized vehicles, etc.).

O’Brady’s book is an important addition to the Antarctic crossing literature but needs to be considered within the context of those who have paved the way. In December 2018, O’Brady completed a crossing distance of 932 miles in 54 days and claimed to have made the first solo, unsupported, and unaided crossing. While a significant accomplishment, others preceded him with different methods. As one can see from the following prior expeditions the choice of route clearly makes a difference. In 1996-97, Borge Ousland completed a crossing of 1864 miles in 64 days, with the occasional use of a kite, and claimed the first solo, unsupported crossing. In 2005-06, Rune Gjeldnes completed a 2988 mile crossing in 90 days claiming to be the first to cross that portion of the continent solo, unsupported, as well as setting a distance record. In 2011-12, Felicity Aston completed a 1084 mile crossing in 59 days claiming to be the first to cross solo, unaided, as well as the first woman to cross Antarctica alone, but with the use of two supply drops. In 2016-17, Mike Horn completed a crossing of 3170 miles in 57 days using kites and claiming a solo, unsupported, distance record. O’Brady’s claim of an unaided crossing has been disputed by polar explorers as his route was considerably shorter than other prior expeditions and, for the final 366 miles, followed the South Pole Traverse (SPoT) flag-marked route completed in 2006.

From the dust jacket – “Prior to December 2018, no individual had ever crossed the landmass of Antarctica alone, without support and completely human powered. Yet, Colin O’Brady was determined to do just that, even if, ten years earlier, there was doubt that he’d ever walk again normally. From the depths of a tragic accident, he fought his way back. In a quest to unlock his potential and discover what was possible, he went on to set three mountaineering world records before turning to this historic Antarctic challenge.

O’Brady’s pursuit of a goal that had eluded many others was made even more intense by a head-to-head battle that emerged with British polar explorer Captain Louis Rudd—also striving to be “the first.” Enduring Antarctica’s sub-zero temperatures and pulling a sled that initially weighed 375 pounds—in complete isolation and through a succession of whiteouts, storms, and a series of near disasters—O’Brady persevered.

Alone with his thoughts for nearly two months in the vastness of the frozen continent—gripped by fear and doubt—he reflected on his past, seeking courage and inspiration in the relationships and experiences that had shaped his life.

Honest, deeply moving, filled with moments of vulnerability—and set against the backdrop of some of the most extreme environments on earth, from Mt. Everest to Antarctica—‘The Impossible First’ reveals how anyone can reject limits, overcome immense obstacles, and discover what matters most.”

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