Crazy Fast? Or Just Plain Crazy?

The Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration may be long past, but plenty of adventurers still share Sir Ernest Shackleton’s dream of reaching the south pole. And last Wednesday three Canadians broke the world record for crossing the continent to the pole unaided, traveling 700 miles on snowshoes and skies from Hercules Inlet on the Ronne Ice Shelf to the pole in 33 days, 23 hours, and 30 minutes—beating the last record by nearly 6 days. In case you’re wondering, yes, that is crazy fast. Considering the lack of even dogs to help pull the sled, it could also be considered just plain crazy.

Ray Zahab, Kevin Vallely, and Richard Webber slogged through temperatures as low as minus 40, and subsisted on a 7,000-calorie-per-day diet of deep-fried bacon, hunks of cheese, and butter. The Michael Phelps-like caloric intake helped the men persevere through whiteout conditions at 10,000 feet. “If you took a cloud, wrapped it around your head and then duct-taped it, that’s what a whiteout is like. It was exhausting,” Zahab told the Associated Press.

The men uploaded photos and blog posts to their website by satellite phone, which thousands of Canadian and stateside grade school students tracked over the last month. These seemingly bionic achievements are also doing some good for science. Researchers at the Universities of Washington and Arizona are using the trio to studying the physical impacts of endurance racing in such extreme conditions, and the role that passion might play in teamwork. Zahab, who pulled the 170-pound supply sled, is most famous for appearing in the 2008 documentary, “Running the Sahara”, in which he ran 4,300 miles across the African desert. Now, that’s a feat even Shackleton would be impressed by.