Alone and aided only by the winds that pushed him, Norwegian Boerge Ousland completed the first solo crossing of Antarctica today after a grueling 64-day trip on skis and by foot.
“I am very, very tired but incredibly happy,” Ousland said by radio shortly after his arrival at New Zealand’s Scott Base on the edge of the continent. “I am in good shape and have no injuries of any kind.”
The last miles were some of the slowest for the 34-year-old Ousland. He slogged through treacherous, crevasse-laced terrain at less than 2 mph for several hours, his spokesman, Hans Christian Erlandsen, told The Associated Press in Oslo.
Ousland and three other men each set out on Nov. 15 to make the solo, 1,675-mile crossing. Sir Ranulph Twistleton-Wykeham-Fiennes of Britain dropped out in mid-December because of kidney stones. Marek Kaminsky of Poland was reportedly well behind Ousland and the status of South Korean Hoe Youngho was not immediately known.
Ousland tried the crossing last year. He had predicted that this year’s trip would take 90 days, but beat his own prediction by nearly a month.
Strapped to a parachutelike sail that harnessed Antarctica’s fierce winds, he skied as much as 140 miles in a day, despite towing a sled carrying about 400 pounds of supplies.
Ousland reached the South Pole on Dec. 19. He spent Christmas in his tent waiting out a storm, but was cheered by reading letters from his wife and child and by eating a “success tart” that his wife had baked.
Except for meeting some people at the South Pole base, his only human contact was occasional radio communication with a Norwegian at the Patriot Hills base.
The trek included climbing the 9,800-foot South Pole Plateau and enduring monotony and temperatures that dipped to 40 degrees below zero.
Ousland now holds four polar records. In his aborted attempt at a solo crossing last year, he nevertheless became the first person to ski to both poles alone and unaided.
In 1990, he and Norwegian Erling Kagge were the first pair to ski to the North Pole without outside help and Ousland did it by himself in 1993.
Ousland said last year that going to the North Pole was more dangerous, but that Antarctica was more of a mental challenge because of its seemingly endless snowfields.
Ousland plans to spend a few days at Scott Base, a scientific installation home to hundreds of researchers in the Antarctic summer. His next journey will be either by plane to New Zealand or ship to Tasmania, Australia, he said.
His wife, Wenche, said she and son Max will meet him there - if the 12-year-old can get out of school.
“I am very happy, proud and overwhelmed,” Wenche said in Oslo after word came that Ousling had succeeded.