Mike Horn is a South-African born Swiss explorer and adventurer who gained world fame in 2001 after completing a solo journey around the equator without motorized transport.
After Ranulph Fiennes’ ‘vertical’ crossing of the world along longitude zero – aka the Greenwich Meridian – in his Transglobe expedition in 1982 Mike Horn accomplished the first ‘horizontal’ crossing of the world at Latitude zero – aka the Equator in 2001.
The 35-year-old South-African crossed the Atlantic Ocean, South America, the Pacific Ocean, the Indonesian islands, The Indian Ocean and Africa. All by himself, walking, rowing, sailing, biking, through jungles and tempests, through marshes and deserts. He left in June 1999 and came back to where he had started, one year and a half later. He had gone round the world following the equator.
“When I left, I thought I knew enough to go round the world this way. Now that I am back, I know that I don’t know enough to start again.”
A six stage journey following Latitude Zero
On the 3rd of June 1999 at around 18h00, local time, Mike Horn left Gabon on the West African coast for the first step of expedition Latitude Zero, an attempt to go around the world at the equator unaided and with no engine-driven support.
The trip was divided into 6 stages as follows:
I crossed the Atlantic Ocean from Gabon to Brazil on a on a 28 foot trimaran – a sea distance of 4210 nautical miles which took me 19 days.
Once on the South American continent, I continued on foot from Brazil to Ecuador. On this stage, I also used an airboat and a bicycle, continuing through the Amazon Jungle, up the Rio Negro and over the Andes mountains in Colombia and Ecuador to the Pacific Ocean. A total distance of 3626 km – which I completed in 5 months and 4 days.
It was back onto my trimaran in the Pacific Ocean to cross from Ecuador to Borneo, sailing through the Galapagos Islands, completing 8685 nautical miles in 2 months and 16 days.
Now in the Indonesian Islands, I traversed Borneo and Sumatera on foot and by sailboat, a distance of 2220 km, taking me 2 months and 7 days.
Next up was an Indian Ocean crossing from Sumatra to Somalia, through the Maldives doing 3927 nautical miles in 2 month and 4 days.
The final stage was on the African continent. I travelled from Somalia back to Gabon, on foot, by canoe, bicycle and airboat, taking me through Kenya, Uganda, Zaire, the DRC and back to Gabon – my starting point. A distance of 4173 km completed in 4 months
When alone in the jungle, a snake’s bite left him blind for four days; in Colombia, he was captured first by drug traffickers, then by the army… He had to hunt monkeys and caimans to eat, he had to climb volcanoes, he caught malaria… He almost drowned several times, for instance on Lake Victoria where an amazing tempest had broken… He went across countries at war, where all sides accused him of being a spy and where he had become a prey. In Africa, it almost ended badly, for some rebel soldiers had arrested him and sentenced him to death. At five o’clock in a morning, he was standing in front of a firing squad, and barely just escaped it.
“Well, I was in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, crossing from one rebel territory to another, when one group thought I was a spy. And if they think you’re a spy, you can tell them what you want to, but they’ll believe what they want. I was actually in front of a death squad, and they were going to shoot me. When they lifted up their Kalashnikovs or AK-47s and I closed my eyes—well, I was just waiting for the shot. Maybe they were just playing with me. In the end, a police officer saved me. He said it was a police affair, not a military one.”
This remarkable feat made Mike a worldwide personality and won him the 2001 Laureus World Alternative Sportsperson of the Year Award, “Adventurer of the Year” for Out There magazine, and the “Toison d’Or” for the international adventure film festival in Dijon.