Let’s start with Figure 1, which is a photograph of Annie Edson Taylor, who on October 24, 1901 was the first person to survive a plunge over Niagara Falls in a barrel – yes the same barrel pictured. I mean woot, woot! What a useless, nay what a stupid thing to do! Sorry Annie, just saying it as it is.
Swimming from Cuba to Florida, braving jelly fish and sharks – what’s with that? At least Diana Nyad‘s feat is a personal goal and triumph. She even swam around Manhattan Island in 1975 – yuck to that. So today, I was reading the BBC News and came across this very nice photograph by Stephanie Mahe of Reuters showing Canadian rower Milene Paquette arriving in Lorient Harbour in France, becoming the first North American rower to row solo across the Atlantic. One can, at least appreciate the feat, both the physical and mental challenge. The BBC also had this picture by Andrew Milligan of PA, showing Sean Conway emerging from his four month swim along the entire length of mainland Britain from Land End to John O’Groats.
Personal challenges and great geographic challenges, why do we attempt them? I have previously quoted the great nineteen century British explorer, Sir Richard F. Burton:
“Starting in a hollowed log of wood — some thousand miles up a river, with an infinitesimal prospect of returning! I ask myself ‘Why?’ and the only echo is ‘damned fool!… the Devil drives’.”
Great feats, even foolish feats are all a part of the human experience.