Colin O’Brady recently became the first person ever to cross Antarctica from coast to coast alone and without the help of wind. The journey took 54 days and spanned over 900 miles. During the trek, you’d assume that one would need to listen to a lot of stuff to pass the time, and indeed O’Brady listened to a lot of both podcasts and music.
In particular, he once listened to Paul Simon’s Graceland on repeat for a whole day, as The New York Times reported a few weeks ago, and on Day 35 of his trip (aka 12/7), he received a very special phone call from none other than Simon himself.
Simon posted a note on his official website reflecting on the experience:
Last Thursday evening I had the most extraordinary conversation with a man in Antarctica. He was trekking unaccompanied across the the continent, pulling behind him a 300-pound sled that held his camping equipment, food and supplies. I first heard of Colin O’Brady a few weeks ago when a friend told me that a man was making the first solo walking trip across Antarctica and he had listened to my album, Graceland, for a solid day straight. I contacted his family after I read a piece in The New York Times about O’Brady’s mission, and his wife set up a satellite phone conversation between us. It was 10:30 p.m. his time, and 8:30 p.m. on the East Coast, where I live. The main difference was that Colin was living in 24-hour-a-day sunlight, and it was already dark outside our house.
I asked him about the landscape — entirely white with no visible landmarks, although he was climbing to an altitude of 8,000 feet. He was almost half-way through his arduous journey. I asked him if he felt lonely in the desolate landscape with no companionship. He said he spoke with his wife, Jenna, every evening. He told me that he wasn’t lonely and had a lot of time to think on all sorts of matters from the mundane to the spiritual, with more time lately on the spiritual. O’Brady is 33 years old and a Yale graduate, an experienced endurance athlete and adventurer. We promised to meet when he comes home and is rested. I’m looking forward to seeing him and hearing more about his amazing achievement.
— Paul Simon
O’Brady was, of course, stoked: “This will be my Graceland if I can complete it,” he told the Times. “[It’s] taking every ounce of everything I’ve trained for and learned.” He also posted a longer message on Instagram:
View this post on Instagram
Day 35: FANBOY DANCE PARTY FOR ONE. Last night a wonderful surprise occurred. @jennabesaw told me I needed to call a specific number. I figured it was an interview or something. I dialed the number and guess who answers the phone?! Paul Simon!! The man, the myth, the legend. Turns out he heard (thanks @eorlins for making the initial connection) that I had been playing Graceland as the top music pick on my journey and he wanted to reach out. We had a wonderful conversation for 30 minutes over my satellite phone. We talked about many things, but setting aside celebrity and fame, what struck me most was talking to him about his process of creativity and bringing a masterpiece like Graceland into the world. I’m always so fascinated to talk to people who have worked their whole lives and put their heart and soul into striving for their highest performance, no matter the craft or canvas. Though his expression is music and mine endurance sport, we both could relate so much on the mindset required to attempt to perform at that level. He asked me how long I had trained for this project, and I laughed and said., “Well, my whole life I guess.” Day by day I work to try to finish the quest to put my own “Graceland” into the world, not for personal glory but so that many others in the world can use it as an example to strive to do the same in their lives. Of course, I started the day cranking the album, dancing and singing at the top of my lungs “Graceland, Graceland, Memphis Tennessee I’m going to Graceland…” #TheImpossibleFirst #BePossible
O’Brady was locked into a competition to become the first person across Antarctica with another modern-day expeditioner: Louis Rudd is still trekking across the continent and he too is listening to music which, according to the New York Times, includes Pink Floyd and a lot of ’80s music.