Why Norwegians are so frighteningly tough
By research editor, cage fighter, and impartial Norwegian-American Ryan Krogh
1. We're born this way: As a kid, Roald Amundsen (see No.1) would sleep with his window open in the dead of winter to condition himself.
2. We only get stronger: After Kon-Tiki, Thor Heyerdahl (see No. 4) attempted to sail a papyrus boat from Morocco to Barbados. When that boat sank, 56 days in, he built another one and successfully crossed the Atlantic a year later.
3. We don't need friends: Børge Ousland (he should be on this list) was the first person to cross Antarctica solo and unsupported, in just 64 days.
4. We drink your milkshake:
4. Thor Heyerdahl
WHAT HE DID: In 1947, the Norwegian Heyerdahl and a crew of five sailed a handmade balsa replica of a simple Inca pae-pae raft 5,000 miles from Peru to the South Pacific, stunning naval architects and revolutionizing anthropology.
LEGACY: Heyerdahl wanted to make a point about human migration but ended up making a much bigger one about the human spirit. His masterful chronicle of the voyage, Kon-Tiki, will be inspiring would-be adventurers to cut loose for centuries to come.
CLOSING ARGUMENT: Joshua Slocum's 1898 (the judges will count it) solo circumnavigation of the
3. Beryl Markham
WHAT SHE DID: The Brit completed the first eastwest solo flight across the Atlantic, in 1936the icing on a seat-of-the-pants career among Africa's earliest bush pilots.
LEGACY: Her record and her bush flying made her count, but her affairs with a British royal and Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, among others, and her brilliant 1942 memoir West with the Night made her a legend.
CLOSING ARGUMENT: Amelia Earhart, Teddy Roosevelt, and Wilfred Thesiger all lived equally adventurous lives. None of them, however, matched Markham as a storyteller.
2. Reinhold Messner
WHAT HE DID: Climbed all 14 of the world's 8,000-meter peaks, including, of course, Everest, without supplemental oxygen. Did Everest again, solo. Bought a castle in his native South Tyrol, in Italy.
LEGACY: Messner forever altered mountaineering with his fast-and-light style. He also ignited his share of controversy, with his belief in the Yeti and the debate over whether he prioritized his ambition over his brother's life on a 1970 ascent of Pakistan's Nanga Parbat. He is, without a doubt, the greatest climber of all time.
CLOSING ARGUMENT: Hillary and Tenzing's conquest of Everest is the most memorable expedition of the last century, but they were finishing the job that others had nearly completed, and their porter-dependent achievement has been followed by hundreds of other overloaded siege climbs that continue to crowd the mountain. Messner may be a bastard, but he's the original self-reliant alpinist.