1. 27-Year-Old Woman Becomes The First Female Ever To Visit Every Country On Earth, Here’s How She Did It
Cassie’s epic adventure, which was called Expedition196, took a total of 18 months and 26 days. She set out on July 24th, 2015, and she finished on February 2nd, 2017. Her journey cost her an estimated $198,000 USD (£160,000), a sum which was largely covered by sponsors, but as she wrote on Facebook, “despite what you may think, this Expedition has not been easy.” She was traveling on behalf of the International Institute for Peace Through Tourism, and part of her trip was spent meeting politicians and students in order to promote the institute’s primary goal of “mobilizing the travel and tourism industry as a leading force for poverty reduction.”
So what’s next for this inspirational globetrotter? Well, she’ll soon be off on another adventure, this time to Antarctica, and then in June she’ll be launching a course to teach people how to find the funding to pursue their very own dreams of traveling the world. Needless to say, our names are already on the list!
2. 70-Year-Old Italian Man Holds Guinness Record for Most University Degrees
Getting more than one college degree is not exactly unheard of, but 15 is apparently quite impressive, since it’s only been done by one man. Although he spends his days working around his house and garden, like most people his age, at night, Luciano Baretti turns into a student again. Every morning, at 3 a.m., as most of the world is sleeping, he wakes up, takes out his books and studies by the light of his desk lamp. He claims that studying helps keep his mind active and that every degree he has obtained has helped broaden his knowledge of the world around him. Plus, getting mentioned in the record books is a nice perk too.
“Thanks to books, I feel free, dammit,” Baietti recently said. “After all, the words share the same root,” he says, referring to the Italian words libro (book) and libero (free).” He claims to have been inspired 19th century French essayist Louis-Francois Bertin, whose portrait is also on display in his study, alongside his many framed university degrees, and whom he describes as “a man of culture and knowledge.”
Baietti first made it into the Guinness Book of Records in 2002, after getting his eight degree, but he didn’t stop there. After getting degrees in physical education, sociology, literature, law, political science philosophy and motor skills, he spent the next 15 years adding seven more bachelors and masters degree to his collection. Most of them are from the famous La Sapienze University, in Rome, one of the oldest in the world, but he’s also graduated from a distance-learning university in Turin, and an online university in Naples. Luciano now holds degrees in criminology and military strategies, as well.
“Each time I set myself a new challenge, to see how far my body and my brain can go,” Luciano says. At 70-years-old, he thinks he has enough energy for at least one more degree, this time in food science.
Probably the most important thing about Luciano Baietti’s achievement is that he managed to get most of his university degrees while working as the headmaster of a secondary school, and volunteering with Italy’s Red Cross. The secret was always getting up at 3 in the morning, to make sure that his thirst for knowledge didn’t affect his professional activity and his family life. He spent 3 hours studying every day, and that was apparently all he needed to pass his exams and write his thesis.
3. 13-Year-Old Reaches Top of Mt. Everest
Jordan Romero called his mother by satellite phone from the summit of the world's highest mountain, 29,035 feet above sea level.
He is now one climb away from his quest to conquer the highest peaks on all seven continents.
"He says, 'Mom, I'm calling you from the top of the world,'" Leigh Anne Drake told The Associated Press from California, where she had watched her son's progress on a GPS tracker online.
"There were lots of tears and 'I love you! I love you!'" Drake said. "I just told him to get his butt back home."
The teenager with long curly hair - who climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa when he was 9 years old - says he was inspired by a painting in his school hallway of the seven continents' highest summits.
"Every step I take is finally toward the biggest goal of my life, to stand on top of the world," Jordan said earlier on his blog.
The former record for the youngest climber to scale Everest had been held by Temba Tsheri of Nepal. He reached the peak at age 16.
Also Saturday, officials said a Nepalese Sherpa who lives in the Salt Lake City suburb of Draper broke his own world record by climbing Everest for the 20th time. Apa, who goes by one name, went up with fellow climbers on a mission also to collect garbage, a growing environmental problem on the mountain.
Mountaineering Department official Tilak Pandey said several climbers took advantage of Saturday's clear weather to reach the summit.
Jordan's climbing team reached the peak hours earlier than expected.
"The first thing, they all hugged each other and said, 'I love you, I can't believe we're finally here' and started crying," said Rob Bailey, the team's spokesman, by phone from the United States.
Jordan, from Big Bear, California, was climbing Everest with his father, his father's girlfriend and three Sherpa guides. He left for the peak from the base camp on the Chinese side.
Everest was his first challenge above 26,240 feet.
Unlike neighboring Nepal, the other approach to Everest, China has no age limit for climbers. Jordan registered with Chinese officials in April, said Zhang Mingxing, secretary general of China Tibet Mountaineering Association.
No interview with Jordan would be possible until he returns to advance base camp, which could take a couple of days, Bailey said. Climbers stay overnight at three or four camps before the summit, depending on their route and pace.
Jordan carried a number of good luck charms, including a pair of kangaroo testicles given to him by a friend who has cancer.
"That's the one that probably meant the most," Bailey said.
At the summit, Jordan left behind his lucky rabbit's foot and planted some seeds that a Buddhist monk at a local monastery had given him for luck on his journey, Bailey said. Then he took the satellite phone and called his mom.
Jordan continues the recent trend of young adventurers. Earlier this month, 16-year-old Australian Jessica Watson became the youngest person to sail around the globe solo, nonstop and unassisted. Thousands lined Sydney Harbor to cheer as she cruised past the finish line in her pink yacht.
A Dutch court late last year blocked an even younger sailor, 14-year-old sailor Laura Dekker, from pursuing a similar round-the-world voyage, ordering her to prepare more and wait at least until this year before starting.
And in January, 17-year-old Johnny Collinson of Utah became the youngest person to climb the highest peaks on all seven continents.
Just one mountain remains in Jordan's own quest to climb those peaks, the Vinson Massif in Antarctica.
Jordan's team leaves for Antarctica in December, Bailey said.
"A piece of cake," his mother said.
The Seven Summits
The list comprised of the highest peak on each of the seven continents was first compiled by mountaineer Richard Bass, who completed his seven in the mid-1980s. However, Reinhold Messner compiled a different list presuming different boundaries of Australia (Carstensz Pyramid in New Guinea lies on the Australian continental shelf). According to 7summits.com the youngest person to have made seven ascents is 17-year-old John Collinson
Summits Conquered by Jordan Romero:
• Mt. Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest peak at 19, 340 ft. (age 10);
• Mt. Kosciuszko, Australia's highest peak at 7,310 ft. (age 10)
• Mt. Elbrus, Europe's highest peak at 18,510 ft. (age 11)
• Mt. Aconcagua, South America's highest peak at 22,841 ft. (age 11)
• Mt. McKinley, North America's highest peak at 20,320 ft. (age 11)
• Carstensz Pyramid, Oceania's highest peak at 16,024 ft. (age 13)
• Mt. Everest, Asia's highest peak at 29,035 ft. (age 13)
Still to climb:
• Mt. Vinson, Antarctica's highest peak at 16,050 ft. (Winter 2010)
4. King of the Hyperpolyglots
Then there was Emil Krebs, a German diplomat who lived from 1867 to 1930 and who knew, by some accounts, 65 languages. I was especially interested in Krebs because his brain had been analyzed by German neuroscientists Karl Zilles and Katrin Amunts in 2002 using a cutting-edge technique to measure cellular densities in the cerebral cortex. They reported that Krebs’s brain was indeed different from normal brains, although in fully unexpected ways.
Before going to Düsseldorf to meet Zilles and Amunts, I pieced together Krebs’s biography from a variety of accounts, some of which I had to have translated from German (I’m not a polyglot myself). As a child, Krebs had bent toward foreign languages like a sunflower leans toward the sun. Like Mezzofanti, Krebs was a carpenter’s son. His passion for languages was launched when he found an old French newspaper, and two weeks after a teacher gave him a French dictionary, he showed up at the teacher’s desk speaking the language.
By the end of high school, he is said to have spoken 12 languages. After law school, he went to Berlin’s Foreign Office school for interpreters and was asked which language he wanted to study. By that point, he had studied Latin, Greek, French, and Hebrew in school, and Modern Greek, English, Italian, Spanish, Russian, Polish, Arabic, and Turkish on his own. I want to learn all of them, he replied.
You can’t learn them all, he was told.
OK, Krebs reportedly said. “I want to learn the hardest one.”
That was Mandarin Chinese. He began Chinese courses in 1887 and took (and passed) his first exam in 1890. In 1893, he became a diplomatic translator for the growing German presence in the Chinese cities of Tsingtao and Beijing, and took two further exams in 1894 and 1895, receiving the rating of “good.” By 1901, he’d risen to the rank of Chief Interpreter. There his language abilities brought him literally to the seat of Chinese imperial power.
One day, an exacting Chinese imperial official inquired who in the German legation was writing such elegant Chinese documents. It was Krebs. From then on, the Empress Dowager Cixi often invited him for tea, which they drank out of translucent porcelain cups. She “preferred to converse with him as the most careful and best Chinese speaker among the foreigners.” Chinese authorities asked him questions about the languages in their realm (Chinese, Mongolian, Manchurian, Tibetan)—because they had no tradition of multilingualism, they wouldn’t have learned these languages themselves. One story told about Krebs is that Chinese officials, unable to read a letter sent from a rebel Mongolian tribe, asked Krebs to transcribe it.
In 1913, at the age of 45, Krebs married Amande, a German divorcee. On a honeymoon tour, at a stop at the tomb of Confucius, he read the inscriptions, which were written in Mandarin, Manchurian, Mongolian, Kalmuck, and Turkish. Frail and perpetually underpaid, Krebs (or “Krebsy,” as his wife called him) sat down the following year and wrote a list of what languages he could use—he could, for instance, translate in to and out of German in 32 languages. Later he would be said to “know” 60 or 65 languages. His stepdaughter appended her own note to the list: “It is a great difference between whether one can speak, write, and master a language, or whether one is able to finish correct translations as a proven interpreter.” Be that as it may, during his lifetime he passed government tests in Chinese, Turkish, Japanese, and Finnish, and possibly more.
Similar to other hyperpolyglots I had met or read about, one of Krebs’s most stunning traits lay in how quickly he could learn a new language. Werner Otto Von Hentig, a young German attaché in China, described how Krebs had jumped up in the middle of breakfast to find out from two strangers what language, “foreign to him, had been battering his ear.” Armenian, he discovered. After ordering books, he spent two weeks on the grammar, three on old Armenian, and four on the spoken language. “Then he was a master of them, too,” Hentig wrote.
Rude impatience was his calling card. Once, in order to satisfy a bureaucratic requirement, he had to take a test in both Finnish and Japanese. Krebs intimidated the examiner with his knowledge, scaring the man from the room. In China, Krebs made it perfectly clear that he wanted to study languages rather than do his job (especially since he was often sleeping during the day, having stayed up all night studying). In a revealing anecdote, Hentig described having to fetch Krebs for a meeting.
“His Excellence wants to see you!” Hentig shouted over the walls of Krebs’s compound. There was no answer. “Herr Krebs, the legate needs you!” No answer. “The Herr Minister is asking for you!” Finally Hentig heard a grumble.
“The legate knows me; leave me in peace,” Krebs grumbled.
“May I help you get dressed?”
“Go to hell!”
“They really need you.”
“They always say that,” Krebs muttered. One observer said that Krebs never learned the “technique of life.” He was someone who could tell you off in dozens of languages. He once translated the phrase “kiss my ass” (known as “the Swabian salute”) into 40 languages.
Krebs reviewed his languages in strict rotation: assigning Turkish to Monday, Chinese to Tuesday, Greek to Wednesday, and so on. With a book in hand, he walked around and around the dining room table from midnight to four in the morning, naked, smoking a cigar, drunk on German beer. His library was organized by language and language group. For each book he wrote a summary, which he regularly reviewed. At his desk, he stood. He refused to eat anything but meat, and sought out social interaction only if he could use one of his languages. “He knew 32 languages, not in the way we often see with polyglots, but elegantly and well-spoken in Arabic as well as Russian or Italian,” Hentig wrote. His Tuscan dialect was so good, the Italian ambassador in Beijing offered to cut Krebs’s hair, just to be able to hear Tuscan.
In 1917, Krebs and his family fled China as China and Germany declared war. They ended up in San Francisco, just as Germany and the U.S. had declared war, and they navigated the diplomatic sensitivities by traveling via sealed train to the East Coast, where they boarded a ship for Europe. Krebs’s extensive library had to be left behind and was eventually sold to the Library of Congress.
Back in Germany, Krebs turned to languages with full force, “surrendering to his great ambition for language study,” as one German biographer put it. The Foreign Office was offering 90 deutschmarks for every language that someone could speak. You’ll be a millionaire!, Krebs’s friends told him. But officials informed Krebs that he would be restricted to testing in two languages. He made no more money for being able to read the cuneiform writings of Assyrian, Babylonian, and Sumerian.
One afternoon in March 1930, when he was translating something (what isn’t known), Krebs collapsed and died soon afterward. The news spread quickly, and later that day, his wife received a chilling call: Would the family donate his brain to science? The request came from Oskar Vogt, a pugnacious specialist in brain anatomy and the director of the Kaiser-Wilhelm Institute for Brain Research. The brain would be a fine addition to Vogt’s collection of elite brains, and the only brain of a Sprachgenie, or a “language genius.”
Vogt met Krebs’s wife’s sister and his stepdaughter in the church where the funeral was to be held; by law, brain extraction required family members to be present. Toni and Charlotte-Luise, who had stepped away because they couldn’t bear to watch, could hear Vogt’s hammering and sawing. The mood must have been one of Frankensteinian gloom: the dark church; the flickering gaslight; and Vogt walking away with Krebs’s brain, jiggling in a glass jar.
I resolved to see this brain and hoped it would have something to say for itself. What did the neuroscientists conclude about his brain, and what might it say about a talent for learning foreign languages?
5. An 11-Year-Old Just Earned the Highest IQ Score Possible
After stumbling upon the Mensa test while surfing on her iPad, Wahi decided to test herself as a way of proving a point to her parents, both IT management consultants at the Deutsche Bank in London. She figured an impressive score might be an effective way to stop her parents from nagging her to study.
Wahi is currently a student at West London’s Notting Hill and Ealing Junior School, where she helped her team secure third place at last year’s Oxford Maths challenge. Her other extracurriculars include net ball, lawn tennis, and chess—the latter of which she’s competed in on the national level. She is thought to be one of the youngest test takers ever to achieve a perfect score, partly because participants have to be at least 10 and a half to take it.
6. Most number of Guinness World Records
7. Fastest reader in the world
8. First to Sail Around the World Alone, 1895-1898
Captain Slocum turned to writing and published a book describing his adventures at sea. Sales were disappointing. In 1892 he decided to build his own boat and sail her around the world alone. The result was the 37-foot sloop Spray and one of the greatest sea adventures ever told. Captain Slocum's odyssey began on April 24, 1895. He was 51 years old. Over three years later he and the Spray returned on June 27, 1898 completing a journey of 46,000 miles. His adventures were first published in Century Magazine and then in book form in 1900.
Captain Slocum reached Gibraltar in early August 1895 planning to continue through the Mediterranean and the Suez Canal. However, the warnings of naval officers in Gibraltar regarding the presence of pirates and his subsequent experience changed his course. The following encounter persuaded the captain to sail westward across the Atlantic:
"Monday, August 25, the Spray sailed from Gibraltar. ...A tug belonging to her Majesty towed the sloop into the steady breeze clear of the mount, where her sails caught a violent wind, which carried her once more to the Atlantic, where it rose rapidly to a furious gale. My plan was, in going down this coast, to haul offshore, well clear of the land, which hereabouts is the home of pirates; but I had hardly accomplished this when I perceived a felucca making out of the nearest port, and finally following in the wake of the Spray ...here I was, after all, evidently in the midst of pirates and thieves! I changed my course; the felucca did the same, both vessels sailing very fast, but the distance growing less and less between us. The Spray was doing nobly; she was even more than at her best, but, in spite of all I could do, she would broach now and then. She was carrying too much sail for safety. I must reef [reduce the size of the sail] or be dismasted and lose all, pirate or no pirate. I must reef, even if I had to grapple with him for my life.
I was not long in reefing the mainsail and sweating it up - probably not more than fifteen minutes; but the felucca had in the meantime, so shortened the distance between us that I now saw the tuft of hair on the heads of the crew, - by which, it is said, Mohammed will pull the villains up into heaven, - and they were coming on like the wind. From what I could clearly make out now, I felt them to be the sons of generations of pirates, and I saw by their movements that they were now preparing to strike a blow. The exultation on their faces, however, was changed in an instant to a look of fear and rage. Their craft, with too much sail on, broached to on the crest of a great wave. This one great sea changed the aspect of affairs suddenly as the flash of a gun. Three minutes later the same wave overtook the Spray and shook her in every timber. At the same moment the sheet-strop parted, and away went the main-boom, broken short at the rigging.
Impulsively I sprang to the jib-halyards and down-haul, and instantly downed the jib. The head-sail being off, and the helm put hard down, the sloop came in the wind with a bound. While shivering there, but a moment though it was, I got the mainsail down and secured inboard, broken boom and all...The mainsail being secured, I hoisted away the jib, and, without looking round, stepped quickly to the cabin and snatched down my loaded rifle and cartridges at hand; for I made mental calculations that the pirate would by this time have recovered his course and be close aboard, and that when I saw him it would be better for me to be looking at him along the barrel of a gun. The piece was at my shoulder when I peered into the mist, but there was no pirate within a mile. The wave and squall that carried away my boom dismasted the felucca outright. I perceived his thieving crew, some dozen or more of them, struggling to recover their rigging from the sea. Allah blacken their faces!"
The Greatest Adventure
Captain Slocum faced his greatest challenge as he sailed from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean through the Strait of Magellan:
"It was the 3d of March when the Spray sailed from Port Tamar direct for Cape Pillar, with the wind from the northeast, which I fervently hoped might hold till she cleared the land; but there was no such good luck in store. It soon began to rain and thicken in the northwest, boding no good. The Spray neared Cape Pillar rapidly, and, nothing loath, plunged into the Pacific Ocean at once, taking her first bath of it in the gathering storm. There was no turning back even had I wished to do so, for the land was now shut out by the darkness of night. The wind freshened, and I took in a third reef. The sea was confused and treacherous...I saw now only the gleaming crests of the waves. They showed white teeth while the sloop balanced over them...on the morning of March 4 the wind shifted to southwest, then back suddenly to northwest, and blow with terrific force. The Spray, stripped of her sails, then bore off under bare poles. No ship in the world could have stood up against so violent a gale. Knowing that this storm might continue for many days, and that it would be impossible to work back to the westward along the coast outside of Tierra del Fuego, there seemed nothing to do but to keep on and go east about, after all. Anyhow, for my present safety the only course lay in keeping her before the wind. And so she drove southeast, as though about to round the Horn, while the waves rose and fell and bellowed their never-ending story of the sea."
For the next four days Captain Slocum and the Spray ride the angry sea as the gale pushes them back towards the Strait of Magellan:
"It was indeed a mountainous sea. When the sloop was in the fiercest squalls, with only the reefed forestaysail set, even that small sail shook her from keelson to truck when it shivered by the leach. Had I harbored the shadow of a doubt for her safety, it would have been that she might spring a leak in the garboard at the heel of the mast; but she never called me once to the pump. Under pressure of the smallest sail I could set she made for the land like a race-horse, and steering her over the crests of the waves so that she might not trip was nice work. I stood at the helm now and made the most of it.
Night closed in before the sloop reached the land, leaving her feeling the way in pitchy darkness. I saw breakers ahead before long. At this I wore ship and stood offshore, but was immediately startled by the tremendous roaring of breakers again ahead and on the lee bow. This puzzled me, for there should have been no broken water where I supposed myself to be. I kept off a good bit, then wore round, but finding broken water also there, threw her head again offshore. In this way, among dangers, I spent the rest of the night. Hail and sleet in the fierce squalls cut my flesh till the blood trickled over my face; but what of that? It was daylight, and the sloop was in the midst of the Milky Way of the sea, which is northwest of Cape Horn and it was the white breakers of a huge sea over sunken rocks which had threatened to engulf her through the night. It was Fury Island I had sighted and steered for, and what a panorama was before me now and all around! It was not the time to complain of a broken skin. What could I do but fill away among the breakers and find a channel between them, now that it was day? Since she had escaped the rocks through the night, surely she would find her way by daylight. This was the greatest sea adventure of my life. God knows how my vessel escaped."
9. First solo flight around the world