Think everything’s been done already? Think again.
Humans have been around for more than 200,000 years. We’ve crossed continents on foot, invented flight, performed some of the most impressive Everest climbs, had a director descend to the lowest point of the Earth and, finally, wingsuited without a parachute. There are, however, still milestones to be set. “Firsts” to be shouted across the earth for all to hear. You better get your game face on now, because these earthly firsts might not be up for grabs for long.
Swim Across the Pacific
In 1998, airline marketing agent Ben Lecomte became the first human to ever swim across the Atlantic Ocean. Starting in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, Lecomte swam eight hours per day for 73 days, taking food and rest breaks on a trailing sailboat that emitted an electromagnetic signal to ward off sharks. It was not a “straight” or “unsupported” swim… far from it, in fact. Just over halfway through the journey, Lecomte succumbed to exhaustion, and had to break for a week on the Azores. By the time he reached the finish line in Quiberon, in northwest France, Lecomte had swam 3,716 miles. Crossing the Pacific will be more difficult. It is farther, at 5,500 miles from Japan to California. Still, it is doable… difficult, but doable. Lecomte is already underway on the challenge, as seen in our Epic Open Water Swims feature.
At 24,836 feet, Gangkhar Puensum is the 40th tallest mountain in the world and the tallest mountain that has never been climbed. If you want to climb it, you’ll have to do so illegally; mountaineering on high peaks is banned in Bhutan, where Gagkhar Puensum rises above its Himalayan neighbors. The law was put into effect in 1994 out of respect for local customs, which hold high mountains as the home of the gods. Several other less sacred peaks remain unclimbed across the earth. Among those upon whose summits you can shout, “first,” are Kazakhstan’s Sauyr Zhotasy, Antarctica’s Mount Siple and Papua New Guinea’s Finisterre Range.
Wingsuit BASE Jump from Mt. Everest
Few mountain peaks provide suitable topography for a safe BASE jump. Everest might be one of those peaks. Nobody knows. Nobody’s ever tried jumping from the tallest mountain in the world while wearing a wingsuit. The closest we’ve come? In 1988 Jean-Marc Boivin jumped from the summit strapped into a paraglider. That feat was accomplished again last year by National Geographic Adventurers of the Year Sano Babu Sunuwar and Lakpa Tsheri. But at anywhere from a 6:1 to 10:1 glide ratio, paragliders provide considerably more forward flight than modern wingsuits, which have a glide ratio of less than 3:1. Still, that might be enough glide to get over Everest’s sides and into thin air.
Solo Row Around Antarctica
Last year, Stuart Trueman solo rowed 16,000 kilometers around Australia in a kayak. The journey took Trueman 16 months, but circumnavigating Antarctica will take considerably longer. With an area spanning 14 million square kilometers, Antarctica is nearly twice as large as Australia. Also, in case you didn’t notice, it’s at the extreme edge of the world, where weather is unpredictable and emergency support is unavailable. Already, at least one explorer has tried and failed to row around Antarctica. In 2009, Olly Hicks was 80 days and 1,600 nautical miles into the journey when he called it off due to a number of discouraging variables other adventurers will face when they take on the same challenge in the future: waves as high as 50-feet, near-zero temperatures, and icebergs that can send a fatigued oarsman to the bottom of the sea.
Hang Glide Across Texas
Now hang on… it’s not as crazy as you might think. Earlier this month, Dustin Martin and Jonny Durand went three quarters of the way, taking off in Zapata near the Mexican border and riding the wind north-northwest until the sun went down and the wind died. That was 11 hours later, when the two pilots landed in Lubbock, 761 kilometers from where they took off, which was also a new world record for open distance hang gliding. 200 kilometers more and they would have reached Oklahoma, a feat that was once considered impossible. Not anymore. Someone has to get there first.