Biographies of Famous South Africans
Special South Africans


Those who have inspired us. Those who have defined us.
Those who have shown us our common humanity.

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Mike Horn
16 July 1966 - ?

Mike HornMike Horn, South African explorer and athlete, accomplished a unique feat: a solo journey around the world along the equator, using only his own resources. His treacherous progression along latitude zero was followed by television viewers the world over. He left Gabon on June 2, 1999 and crossed the Atlantic Ocean by trimaran. Horn then traveled from Brazil to Ecuador by foot, bicycle and canoe, and then traversed the Amazon jungle and the Andes Cordillera. Crossing the Pacific Ocean took him to Indonesia, via the Galapagos Islands. Journeying through Borneo and Sumatra jungles by foot and sailboat, Mike Horn then continued on by trimaran across the Indian Ocean. The last leg took him from Somalia to Gabon, where he arrived, exhausted, on October 28, 2000, after a 17-month voyage.

Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, married, with two children, Mike studied Human Movement Science at Stellenbosch University. He became known to the public for his crazy feats, such as the 6,700-kilometer descent of the Amazon by hydrospeed - solo and unassisted. In 1994, Mike's descent of the Mont Blanc glacier by hydrospeed granted him membership to the Sector No Limits Team, which unites extreme athletes.

In 1995, Mike opened the "No Limits" Outdoor Activity Sports Centre in Switzerland. It was during this time that Mike broke the world record for the highest descent of a waterfall with a hydrospeed, on the Pacuare River in Costa Rica. (22m)

In 1997, Mike launched his first big expedition: the 6 month solo traverse of the South American continent. He left on foot from the Pacific Ocean and climbed to the source of the Amazon River high in the Peruvian Andes. From here he descended the 7,000 km of the Amazon river on a hydrospeed, until he reached the Atlantic Ocean.

In 1999, Mike launched his big adventure: the circumnavigation of the world along the equator. He baptized the expedition "Latitude Zero", travelling alone around the world in the 17 months from June 1999 to October 2000, and without any form of motorised transport. He has hiked, swam, canoed, biked, and sailed 29,000 miles (46,670 kilometers), deviating from latitude zero only to avoid African war zones and respect tribal lands in South America. Along the way, he was dragged before a firing squad and caught in a cyclone at sea.
What was the story behind his brush with a death squad?
"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."

Mike HornMike is the first man ever to achieve such a feat, and after this he became internationally renowned, receiving many awards and prizes, namely the Laureus Award for "Best Alternative Sportsman of the Year", "Adventurer of the Year" for Out There magazine, and the "Toison d'Or" for the film festival in Dijon.

The next expedition was in 2002, when Mike attempted a solo and unassisted crossing of the North Pole. Much to his disappointment, this trip was aborted 45 days later because of bad frostbite to his fingers.

One month after having the tips of his fingers amputated, Mike set off again, and this time on his biggest adventure: the circumnavigation of the Arctic Circle, solo and without the aid of any motorised transport or dogs. This expedition was called "Arktos" and took Mike 2 years and 3 months to complete, once again setting another record by being the first ever person to complete, non-stop, the 20,000 km route around the Arctic Circle, enduring two harsh Arctic winters with temperatures reaching as low as -60°C.

With still a strong desire to reach the North Pole itself, Mike - along with Norwegian explorer Borge Ousland - decided to reach the North Pole on foot. On the 23rd of March 2006, after 60 days and 5 hours of walking, Mike and Borge finally accomplished what they set out to achieve. They are the first people ever to walk to the North Pole in the sunless Arctic winter, walking 10-12 hours a day pulling their sledges laden with 160kg of equipment in the extreme Arctic temperatures and in 24 hours of complete darkness for the majority of the expedition. This expedition creates a new chapter in Arctic History.

Mike has written four books about his expeditions, each of which has reached the best seller list in France. These books are currently available in several different languages world-wide. Films of his exploits have also been made and have won many prizes throughout Europe. Mike has a simple philosophy to explain his extraordinary challenges:

"The impossible exists only until we find a way to make it possible."

Past expeditions:

1991 Peru - descent by delta plane from the summit of Huascaran (6768 m).
1995 The descent of the Colca Canyon with a hydrospeed (the deepest canyon in the world).
1995 The first descent of the Pacuare River in Costa Rica, establishing the world record for the highest descent of a waterfall with a hydrospeed (22 metres).
1997 Crossing of the South American continent on foot and hydrospeed via the Amazon river. The Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean (7,000 kms) in six months, alone and without assistance.
1999 "Latitude Zero" - The circumnavigation around the world along the equator without using any motorised means. A trip of over 40,000 kms which lasted 17 months.
2002 "Arktos Expidition" - The traverse of the North Pole and the circumnavigation of the Arctic Circle between 76.5°and 66.5°N.
2006 Along with Norwegian explorer Borge Ousland, became the first person ever to walk to the North Pole.

He completed a two-year 3 month solo circumnavigation of the Arctic Circle in 2004 and, in 2006, with Norwegian explorer Børge Ousland, became the first men to travel without dog or motorised transport to the North Pole during permanent darkness. In 2007 he was elected a member of the exclusive Laureus World Sports Academy, in recognition of his ground-breaking achievements.

"Your will to win must be stronger than your fear of losing
and then the impossible exists no longer."


Contact Mike Horn:


Cathy Horn:

Tel: +41 (0) 79 289 8129

Fax: +41 (0) 26 924 7618

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