British Couple Runs the Entire Length of South America

If running a marathon seems like an exhausting prospect, then spare a thought for the British couple that ran a marathon every single day for 15 months. The mammoth feat was part of an epic plan to run the entire length of South America– ,504 miles to be precise.

Katharine and David Lowrie became the first people to ever run the length of the continent when they crossed the finish line in Venezuela last week. But their arduous journey began way back last year on the first day of the London Olympics when they set off from the southern tip of Chile.

The intrepid pair was determined to complete the journey and strode on despite all sorts of unpleasant conditions, be it hurricane-force winds, knee-deep mud or slippery ice. The temperatures they faced were no better, ranging from one extreme (14 F) to another (113 F). And if running miles in these conditions wasn’t bad enough, the couple did it all while they dragged their supplies behind them. There wasn’t much reprieve at night either, with the couple hunkering down in wonky tents as they tried to gather their energy for the next grueling day of running.The Lowries say they went through 10 pairs of shoes during the trip, although they ran a significant portion of their journey barefoot, kind of brave when you consider the Amazonian insects that were swarming them and the snakes that assaulted them. Those critters did come in handy a few times, however, with the couple admitting to eating termites for breakfast when they ran out of food at one point.

The pair says they made the record-breaking run to raise awareness about the importance of the planet’s forests and ecosystems and to raise money for conservation.

How many continents are there?

We are commonly taught that seven continents exist – North America, South America, Antarctica, Asia, Europe, Africa and Australia. But is this answer really true? As YouTube sensation C.G.P. Grey points out in a new video, the definition of a continent isn’t consistent. In a nearly four-minute video, Grey explains (to I-guarantee-it-will-be-stuck-in-your-head kind of music) that depending on the determining factors, the number of continents could range from as few as five or four to as many as dozens.

Using the definition of “large land masses separated from others by oceans,” is problematic, Grey points out, as technically Europe and Asia aren’t separated by an ocean, North and South America are technically only “separated” by a man-made canal and Antarctica, if one is to be precise, is actually an archipelago covered by ice rather than a legitimate land mass. Very confusing.

Weigh in below – is the traditional definition of “continent” correct? Or, like the shocking discovery that Pluto is, in fact, not a planet, should our definition and childhood textbooks be revised?

Bowermaster’s Antarctica — Sharp Peak

Standing at the foot of Sharp Peak, a 4,000-foot-tall snow-covered granite peak rising straight up from the sea, beneath a 360-degree indigo sky, today just might be the most beautiful I have ever seen in Antarctica. Though even as I write that, I knowingly admit it’s impossible to compare days, especially here, since I’ve witnessed so many beautiful ones here over the past twenty years.

But this one was a beauty with a Capital B. Sitting off Prospect Point I am surrounded by THE most spectacular wilderness on the planet. Running about in a Zodiac on a glass-calm black sea, snowcapped mountain ranges circle me marked every few miles by substantial towering glacier tongues. Thick new snow is piled up on the hills and six-foot-thick fast ice (frozen sea) extends from the continent. Dozens of penguins and seals swim and fish, then slide up onto the ice for a rest. Flat-topped tabular icebergs bigger than small apartment buildings – crystal blue and surreal white – sit grounded in the bay or frozen into the fast ice. The sun is high and air temperatures reach to nearly forty … (earlier in the day I heard it was -10 F in Minneapolis!). Aaaaah, Antarctica!

Last year we tried climbing Sharp Peak, but were forced to quit before we started due to too-soft snow and crevasses masked by flat, grey skies. On that day the bay was chock full of floating ice of all sizes; this year most of the winter ice has already been blown out. Though we wouldn’t have had much luck climbing it peak today either, due not to slushy snow, just way too much of it.
It is particularly hard on a day like this, surrounded by ice that is hundreds of years old and mountains covered by new-fallen snow, that one day much of this whiteness lining the Antarctic Peninsula could be gone. Though the air temperatures along the Peninsula have risen during the past fifty years by nine degrees Fahrenheit, the biggest increase on the planet, it is still easy for critics of climate change and its impacts to use this exact vista to suggest that no amount of warming, no matter who or what is responsible, will ever make a difference to this place.

But despite appearances, evidence is all around: All along the Peninsula average temperatures of air and surface water are way up. Eighty-seven percent of all of the continent’s glaciers are flowing faster then ever and have receded. Each year the frozen continent is losing enough ice mass to cause the world’s oceans to rise about .05 inches, adding about 40 trillion gallons of fresh water to the world’s ocean, equivalent to the amount of water used by all U.S. residents every three months. Estimates for sea level rise are on the order of eighteen to twenty feet over the next couple millennium, but we’re not sure if it all may arrive in the same one hundred years. Ice shelves the sizes of small states along the Peninsula are fracturing at alarming rates.

The best analogy I can make for what is happening down south will be familiar to anyone who lives in a cold weather, ice-and-snow climate. Serious scientists in Antarctica talk about a “critical point,” when the combination of warm temperatures, precipitation and loss of ice cover will encourage Antarctica to melt very, very quickly. Think of your own backyard on a warm day at the end of a long winter; your yard, your stoop has been covered in snow and ice for several months and then on early spring day, after a momentous day of rain and warm temperatures, the last remnants of winter disappear … just like that.

The very same could happen here, which is the worry. Though I will admit to understanding why, on a day like today surrounded on all sides by miles and miles of ice and snow, there are still some out there who doubt the globe is warming precipitously. I am not one of them.

Click HERE for more dispatches from Antarctica!