Polar explorer Eric Larsen set out on Dec. 20 to become the first person to use a bicycle to traverse Antarctica to the Geographic South Pole. Larsen fell far short of his goal but unknowingly set a world record in doing so.
Larsen, one of the few Americans to have skied to both the North and South Poles, covered 175 miles, or 25 percent of the distance of 730 miles to the South Pole, before surface snow conditions slowed his pace considerably and prevented him from having enough food and supplies to last for the journey. So he turned around and cycled 160 miles on his Fat Bike to a safe place where he could be picked up.
So though Larsen, 41, returned to his home in Boulder, Colorado, over the weekend without having accomplished his goal, he did achieve a world record for the longest bicycle journey in Antarctica history at 335 miles.
“My goal didn’t focus on that particular record,” Larsen said by phone Thursday. “I think it’s a nice byproduct of the effort. The thing about an expedition like this, or any type of expedition that somebody has never done before, is that there’s a lot of risk. … To come away still achieving a goal that nobody else has done before is very rewarding for me.”
Among his many expeditions, Larsen has led three successful skiing expeditions to the South Pole. He also is known as the first person to send a tweet from the summit of Mt. Everest via a DeLorme satellite device.
The achievements and records are secondary to what Larsen hopes to achieve back home, however.
“My adventures use the story of unique journeys to talk about bigger issues,” Larsen said. “This expedition [to the South Pole via Fat Bike] combined two of my greatest loves–winter and biking. Of course the real focus of Cycle South was to demonstrate how people can use bicycles to protect the environment, improve the lives of people in developing nations, and fight Parkinson’s Disease.”
A cause dear to his heart is the nonprofit Davis Phinney Foundation. Phinney is a former cyclist who was one of the first Americans to win a stage in the Tour de France and was later diagnosed with Parkinson’s, a disease afflicting Larsen’s father.
On his blog post of Dec. 28, when he was forced to turn around, Larsen wrote: “At least I CAN turn around. My dad and all the other people suffering with Parkinson’s Disease have no other choice but to continue forward day after day, year after year. Understanding this simple fact seemed to put my whole expedition into perspective as well as the real goal of this trip: to help raise awareness for the groundbreaking research that is being done by the Davis Phinney Foundation and their efforts to use bicycles to help improve the lives of those who live with Parkinson’s.”
It would appear, then, regardless of a world record, that Larsen succeeded in his abbreviated South Pole expedition. Well done.
To see the kind of terrain Larsen traversed in Antarctica, take a look at his YouTube video: