You may have heard of Marco Pollo, a venetian merchant born in 1254, famous for being one of the first explorers to travel through Asia on the Silk Road, documenting his findings in the book, The Travels of Marco Polo. Another famous explorer of the past is Sir Edmund Hillary, the first person to summit Mt Everest with his Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, in 1953. There are many famous explorers throughout history but who are the men and women paving the way in modern day exploration?
In 2012 Felix Baumgartner became the first person to break the sound barrier in freefall. Known for his extreme parachuting and BASE jumping; a sport that involves parachuting or wingsuit flying from a fixed structure. Baumgartner found fame by expertly throwing himself off famous landmarks such as the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, getting into the building by disguising himself as a businessman with his parachute in a briefcase. In 1999 he also set the record for the lowest BASE jump, jumping from the right hand of Christ The Redeemer in Rio De Janeiro, a height of just 29 metres. By far his greatest achievement, however, is when he teamed up with Red Bull to undertake the highest freefall. Not only did he break the world record for the highest freefall, jumping from a capsule 40km above the New Mexico Desert, but the record for the highest manned balloon flight and the first person to break the speed of sound in freefall. Baumgartner jumped from an altitude of 39,045 metres, hitting a maximum speed of 1.342.8 km/h.
By the time she had reached 20 years of age Sarah McNair-Landry had already become the youngest person to reach both poles, skiing to the South Pole at 18 and dog sledding to the North Pole at 19. Growing up on Baffin Island with arctic guides for parents, McNair-Landry learned about the arctic from a young age along with her brother Eric. In 2009 Sarah and brother Eric became the first to accomplish a non – vehicle supported, kite-buggy crossing of the Gobi Desert in Mongolia. Breaking more records in 2011 when they became the first to kite ski the 3,300km long Northwest Passage in winter. In 2016, Sarah McNair Landry, Eric Boomer (partner) and Ben Stookesberry undertook a ski and kayak mission across Greenland. Using kite skis to make their way across 1,000 km of ice whist towing their white-water kayaks. This amazing achievement is depicted in the film, Into Twin Galaxies.
Are you looking for inspiration for your next adventure holiday but are unsure of what you might be able to do? Erik Weihenmayer is an inspiration to all in the field of adventure. When Weihenmayer lost his sight at the age of 14 he didn’t let it hold him back, in fact it spurred him on, taking up wrestling in high school and rock climbing as a teenager, he then went on to become an avid mountaineer and white-water kayaker. On the 25th May 2001 Erik Weihenmayer became the first blind person to reach the summit of Mt Everest, propelling him into the world of great adventurers. In 2008 he reached the summit of Carstensz Pyramid on the island of Papua New Guinea, completing the Seven Summits, the highest point on every continent. An achievement he set out to accomplish 13 years previous in 1995, with the accent of Denali. Walking up the highest point on every continent is an achievement held by only 150 mountaineers. Weihenmayer explains his passion for adventure and why being blind, has never stopped him,
“Shortly after going blind, I received a newsletter in Braille about a group taking blind kids rock climbing. I thought to myself, who would be crazy enough to take a blind kid rock climbing? So I signed up! Although there was a lot of flailing and struggle in those early days, the freedom of attacking a challenge and problem solving my way through it invigorated me and helped me to feel less trapped by blindness. It was this early seed of adventure that fueled an ambition in me that would eventually lead to hundreds of ascents around the world and all the way to the summit of Mount Everest.”
Professional explorer and motivational speaker Mike Horn embarked on his first major solo expedition in 1997 which saw him traverse the South American continent over six months, descending the Amazon river 7,000km from the Peruvian Andes by hydrospeed. Almost dying from a snake bite, breaking his knee, and getting his kit stollen, did not deter Horn, only making him more determined that being an explorer is what he wanted to do. In 1999 Horn set out again on another solo exhibition that saw him journey around the equator without the use of motorised transport; by boat, bike, kayak, and foot Horn reached his point of departure 18 months later. A journey that catapulted him into the public eye. Horns latest adventure in 2016 saw him set off on a three year circumnavigation of the globe via the South and North poles. Becoming the first person to cross the Antarctic continent at its largest via the South Pole and in record timing.
The accomplishments of these modern day explorers are enough to inspire both those young and old, to really live life to the full.