December 16, 2014

Osservoort spent 17 days and 2,500 kilometers in her quest to the South Pole.     Photo: Simon Foster/AGCO

Tractor Girl Completes 5-Year Journey to the South Pole

Dutch woman rides from Holland to Antarctica

A 38-year-old Dutch actress completed her journey to the South Pole on December 9 after more than two weeks battling the polar elements. She did it in a tractor.

“After 17 days and 2,500 kilometers, we are at a red and white striped pole with a reflective ball on top, surrounded by flags,” Manon Osservoort said in a press release. “This is South 90—as far south as anybody can go. It’s unbelievable.”

Osservoort began her journey in Holland in 2005, according to AutoBlog, traversing Europe and Africa over the course of four years, covering some 23,600 miles. Literally missing the boat from South Africa to Antarctica in 2012, she returned home. It was only after tractor manufacturer Massey Ferguson agreed to sponsor the endeavor in February 2013 that Osservoort was able to resume her mission this November.

The 3,100-mile round trip from Antarctica’s coast to the South Pole hearkens back to Sir Edmund Hillary, who led the first mechanized expedition to the bottom of the world in 1958. For that journey, Hillary was also outfitted with Ferguson tractors.

Osservoort, leading a team of five, endured 23-hour driving stints, battling crevasse fields, steep climbs, deep snow, meter-high sastrugi (solid ice waves), and temperatures as low as minus-69 degrees Fahrenheit with wind chill. The group missed its original goal of December 7 but remained in high spirits.

“To have dreams is beautiful but to see them realized is the most extraordinary feeling,” Osservoort said in the release. “I’m inspired.”

Reaching the South Pole is only a partial victory: Osservoort and her team are now retracing their tracks back to the coast. According to the release, they hope to conclude their journey before Christmas.

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When sailing Guanabara Bay, stay in your boat. Better yet, get out of the water.     Photo: Raoni/Flickr

Rio 2016 Threatened by Super-Bacteria

Waters for sailing, windsurfing events loaded with infectious agents

Researchers say Flamengo Beach, adjacent to the marina where sailing and windsurfing events will take place during the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, is swimming with drug-resistant bacteria linked to urinary, gastrointestinal, and pulmonary infections.

Scientists from Brazil’s Instituto Oswaldo Cruz found the bacteria in samples taken close to the beach and along the Carioca River, which flows into Guanabara Bay. The beach is on the western edge of the bay. Nearly 70 percent of sewage produced by Rio’s 10 million residents ends up in Guanabara Bay, including hospital waste in which the super-bacteria is typically found.

Eduardo Paes, mayor of Rio, has pledged to clean the bay ahead of the Olympics, the BBC reports. But in June, Paes admitted the country wouldn’t be able to reduce pollution in the bay by 80 percent in time for the games—a key aspect of his Olympic bid. Paes’ administration insists water pollution won’t be an Olympic health threat, even though Rio officials often declare Flamengo Beach unfit for swimming.

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The Force of Nature Mind Body Challenge claims to be "the only outdoor event course that aims to challenge the complete athlete."     Photo: Force of Nature/YouTube

Laird Hamilton Launches Obstacle Racing Series

Surf icon plans 6 masochistic races in 2015

Big-wave surfer Laird Hamilton announced on Monday that he will launch his own obstacle course race series next year. Called Force of Nature, the series is composed of six events, each featuring 20 obstacles and a length of between eight and 10 miles. The series debuts in Southern California on April 26, then heads to Philadelphia, Detroit, Chicago, the Tri-State area (Englishtown, New Jersey), and Northern California.

Advertised obstacles feature extreme temperatures, including a crawl through snow and a dome called the Furnace that’s heated to over 130 degrees. At the end of the course, racers must dive to the bottom of a black tank filled with ice water to retrieve their finisher medals.

Hamilton is putting on the series in conjunction with Southern California–based production company MESP, Inc., which puts on the Down & Dirty Obstacle Race series and the star-studded Nautica Malibu Triathlon.

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Virgin Oceanic had planned to explore the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of the ocean.     Photo: Virgin Oceanic/YouTube

Richard Branson's Oceanic Expedition Put on Hold

Submarine exploration program stalled over safety concerns

Richard Branson’s plan to build a submarine that could explore the deepest points in the ocean has been put on hold indefinitely, according to a report in the Telegraph.

The delay in Virgin’s ocean exploration plans comes on the heels of a high-profile hiccup in the Virgin Galactic commercial spaceflight program, which has been stalled since the death of one of its pilots during a test flight in October.

The submarine program, Virgin Oceanic, originally called for the creation of a submarine by 2012 that could explore the deep ocean, including the 36,000-foot-deep Mariana Trench. Branson intended to pilot some of the expeditions himself. After the initial trips, the company also planned to offer chances to pilot the submarine for approximately $500,000 per person.

Tests revealed that the submarine’s glass cockpit might be unable to withstand the pressure at the ocean’s deepest points. Also, objections were raised about Virgin’s plans to reuse the craft multiple times, which critics said might lead to damage to the submarine over time.

The company maintains that it intends to look into other options for ocean exploration, but the problems with the current submarine have led to an indefinite postponement. “We were not sure it [the current submarine design] would make it down,” said a spokesperson. “That project has been put on ice while we look at other technology that works.”

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