American man first to solo across Antarctica unaided
By AMANDA LEE MYERS
Thursday, December 27
An Oregon man became the first person to traverse Antarctica alone without any assistance on Wednesday, trekking across the polar continent in an epic 54-day journey that was previously deemed impossible.
Colin O’Brady, of Portland, finished the bone-chilling, 930-mile (1,500-kilometer) journey as friends, family and fans tracked the endurance athlete’s progress in real time online.
“I did it!” a tearful O’Brady said on a call to his family gathered in Portland for the holidays, according to his wife, Jenna Besaw.
“It was an emotional call,” she said. “He seemed overwhelmed by love and gratitude, and he really wanted to say ‘Thank you’ to all of us.”
O’Brady was sleeping near the finish line in Antarctica late Wednesday and could not immediately be reached for comment.
The 33-year-old O’Brady documented his nearly entirely uphill journey — which he called The Impossible First — on his Instagram page. He wrote Wednesday that he covered the last roughly 80 miles (129 kilometers) in one big, impromptu final push to the finish line that took well over an entire day.
“While the last 32 hours were some of the most challenging hours of my life, they have quite honestly been some of the best moments I have ever experienced,” O’Brady posted.
The day before, he posted that he was “in the zone” and thought he could make it to the end in one go.
“I’m listening to my body and taking care of the details to keep myself safe,” he wrote. “I called home and talked to my mom, sister and wife — I promised them I will stop when I need to.”
Though others have traversed Antarctica, they either had assistance with reinforced supplies or kites that helped propel them forward.
In 2016, British explorer Henry Worsley died attempting an unassisted solo trip across Antarctica, collapsing from exhaustion toward the end of the trek. Worsley’s friend and fellow English adventurer Louis Rudd is currently attempting an unaided solo in Worsley’s honor and was competing against O’Brady to be the first to do it.
Besaw said O’Brady plans to stay on Antarctica until Rudd finishes his trek, hopefully in the next few days.
“It’s a small club,” she joked. “His intention is to wait for Louis and have kind of a celebratory moment with the only other person on the planet to have accomplished this same thing.”
O’Brady described in detail the ups and downs along the way since he began the trek on Nov. 3. He had to haul 375 pounds (170 kilograms) of gear largely uphill and over sastrugi, wave-like ridges created by wind.
“Not only am I pulling my … sled all day, but I’m pulling it up and over thousands of these sastrugi speed bumps created by the violent wind,” he wrote in an Instagram post on Nov. 12. “It’s a frustrating process at times to say the least.”
On Nov. 18, he wrote that he awoke to find his sled completely buried from an all-night blasting of wind and snow. That day he battled a 30 mph (48 kph) headwind for eight hours as he trudged along.
“There were several times I considered stopping, putting my tent back up and calling it a day,” he wrote. “I wanted so badly to quit today as I was feeling exhausted and alone, but remembering all of the positivity that so many people have been sending, I took a deep breath and focused on maintaining forward progress one step at a time and managed to finish a full day.”
On Day 37, or Dec. 9, O’Brady wrote about how much he’s changed, along with a selfie in which he looks almost in pain, snow gathered around his furry hat.
“I’m no longer the same person I was when I left on the journey, can you see it in my face?” he wrote. “I’ve suffered, been deathly afraid, cold and alone. I’ve laughed and danced, cried tears of joy and been awestruck with love and inspiration.”
Though O’Brady had initially thought he’d want a cheeseburger at the end of his nearly impossible journey, Besaw said her husband has been fantasizing about fresh fish and salad because he has mostly been eating freeze-dried foods.
As for what’s next for O’Brady, who also has summited Mount Everest, Besaw said she’s not entirely sure.
“We are just so in the moment celebrating this right now,” she said. “Then we’ll see what’s next on the horizon.”
Follow Amanda Lee Myers on Twitter at https://twitter.com/AmandaLeeAP
Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center
Nerve Reassignment Surgery At Time of Amputation Drastically Reduces Pain in Amputees
Researchers find life-altering benefits to surgery developed for advanced prosthetics
(COLUMBUS, Ohio) – As many as 75 percent of the two million amputees in the U.S. experience debilitating pain, numbness and phantom limb pain. It often makes the use of a prosthetic limb intolerable and requires medication to manage the pain. However, doctors at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center have found that a surgery to reroute amputated nerves, called targeted muscle reinnervation, or TMR, can reduce or prevent phantom and residual limb pain from ever occurring in those who receive the procedure at the time of amputation. The procedure can also help amputees who have lived with pain for years.
“Their pain is caused by disorganized nerve endings in the residual limb that used to connect to muscle, but now have nowhere to go,” says Dr. Ian Valerio, division chief of Burn, Wound and Trauma in the Department of Plastic Surgery. “Attaching those nerve endings to active nerves in a nearby muscle allows the body to rebuild circuits and alleviates phantom and residual limb pain by giving those severed nerves something to do.”
Only 13 percent of patients who received TMR at the same time as their amputation surgery reported having pain six months later, while reports of phantom limb pain were cut in half in amputees who received TMR months or years after their amputation. Valerio says patients are able to significantly reduce or completely discontinue the use of narcotics and greatly improve their quality of life.
“Patients who have been living with this constant pain feel relief almost immediately,” says Valerio. “Within the first couple of weeks after surgery, they’ll say that they feel much better and that the pain is greatly reduced or gone completely. This allows them to finally get back to their daily lives and effectively adjust to life without a limb.”
Japan to resume commercial whaling, but not in Antarctic
By MARI YAMAGUCHI
Thursday, December 27
TOKYO (AP) — Japan announced Wednesday that it is leaving the International Whaling Commission to resume commercial hunts for the animals for the first time in 30 years, but said it would no longer go to the Antarctic for its much-criticized annual killings.
Japan switched to what it calls research whaling after the IWC imposed a moratorium on commercial whaling in the 1980s, and now says stocks have recovered enough to resume commercial hunts.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Japan would resume commercial whaling in July “in line with Japan’s basic policy of promoting sustainable use of aquatic living resources based on scientific evidence.”
He added that Japan is disappointed that the IWC — which he said is dominated by conservationists — focuses on the protection of whale stocks even though the commission has a treaty mandate for both whale conservation and the development of the whaling industry.
“Regrettably, we have reached a decision that it is impossible in the IWC to seek the coexistence of states with different views,” he said at a news conference.
Suga said the commercial hunts would be limited to Japan’s territorial waters and its 200-mile (323-kilometer) exclusive economic zone along its coasts. He said Japan would stop its annual whaling expeditions to the Antarctic and northwest Pacific oceans. Non-signatory states are not allowed to do so, according to Japanese Fisheries Agency officials.
The IWC imposed the moratorium on commercial whaling three decades ago due to a dwindling whale population. In 1987, Japan switched to what is calls research whaling, but the program has been criticized as a cover for commercial hunting since the meat is sold on the market at home.
Japanese officials said Japan, even after leaving the whaling convention, will remain as an observer to the IWC and plans to continue participating in the group’s scientific meetings and annual conferences.
The environmental group Greenpeace condemned Wednesday’s announcement and disputed Japan’s view that whale stocks have recovered, and noted that ocean life is being threatened by pollution as well as overfishing.
“The declaration today is out of step with the international community, let alone the protection needed to safeguard the future of our oceans and these majestic creatures,” Sam Annesley, executive director of Greenpeace Japan, said in a statement. “The government of Japan must urgently act to conserve marine ecosystems, rather than resume commercial whaling.”
Australia’s government, often a vocal critic of Japan’s whaling policies, said in a statement that it was “extremely disappointed” with Japan’s decision to quit the commission.
However, New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters joined Australia in welcoming Japan’s withdrawal from the southern ocean. Japan was the only country with an ambition to return to commercial whaling in the Antarctic Ocean.
Japanese Fisheries Agency official and longtime IWC negotiator Hideki Moronuki said Japan would use the IWC’s method to carefully determine a catch quota on the basis of science, but declined to give an estimate. He said Japan plans to use seven existing whaling hubs on the Pacific coast for the upcoming commercial hunts.
Moronuki said Japan is starting with a modest plan because it has to figure out if or how commercial whaling can be a viable industry. “What’s most important is to have a diverse and stable food supply,” he said.
The Fisheries Agency said Japan plans to catch three kinds of whale that are believed to have sufficient stocks — minke, sei and Bryde’s.
Japan has hunted whales for centuries, but has reduced its catch following international protests and declining demand for whale meat at home. The withdrawal from the IWC may be a face-saving step to stop Japan’s ambitious Antarctic hunts and scale down the scope of whaling to around the Japanese coasts.
Japan slashed its annual quota in the Antarctic by about one third after the International Court of Justice ruled in 2014 that the country’s research whaling program wasn’t as scientific as it had argued. Japan currently hunts about 600 whales annually in the Antarctic and the Northern Pacific.
Fisheries officials have said Japan annually consumes thousands of tons of whale meat from the research hunts, mainly by older Japanese seeking a nostalgic meal. It’s a fraction of the country’s whale meat supply of about 200,000 tons before the IWC moratorium. Critics say they doubt commercial whaling can be a sustainable industry because younger Japanese may not view the animals as food.
Nonetheless, Japanese lawmakers want to promote whales not only as a source of protein but as part of Japan’s cultural tradition.
“We hope the resumption of commercial whaling will lead to the economic revitalization of (whaling) communities,” Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Takamori Yoshikawa told a meeting of his ruling party’s whaling committee.
Kazutaka Sangen, mayor of Taiji, a central Japanese town known for dolphin hunts, welcomed the decision and vowed to stick with scientific way of stock management so that Japan’s position on whaling can gain understanding from the international community.
Suga said that Japan would notify the IWC of its decision by Dec. 31 and that it remains committed to international cooperation on proper management of marine life even after its IWC withdrawal.
Associated Press writer Steve McMorran in Wellington, New Zealand, contributed to this report.
Follow Mari Yamaguchi on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/mariyamaguchi