Luckily, Hooper saw it happen and ran back several hundred yards through slushy snow. He managed not to panic. "I bridged myself out on the ice and pulled him out," he says. Gauntlett came very close to dying. He was unconscious in the 28-degree water for about four minutes, and nearly four hours total. He awoke just as the medevac helicopter arrived, called in from Upernavik, Greenland. His family, Hooper's family, and their trip supporters all recommended stopping, so Hooper presented this to Gauntlett in the hospital in Upernavik. Here were two teens who had attended an expensive British prep school on nothing but hard-won scholarships and financial aid, who had pulled together a massive expedition on a shoestring, borrowing money from any family members or friends who would lend it.
"Rob told me to piss off, we were definitely carrying on."
So they set sail only a few days later, June 2, on the Ice Maiden for a month of dodging icebergs and very little sleep. They had almost no experience at sea, but that was in the spirit of the trip. They learned quickly from the captain and first mate, and they took their watches at the helm through fog and bergs, doing what most sailors only dream of.
In New York, Gauntlett and Hooper began leg three: an 11,000-mile cycling trip to the tip of South America. They rode south through Philadelphia, D.C., and Memphis, then cut across Texas into Mexico, camping the entire time. Somewhere between Nuevo Laredo and Monterrey, Hooper was drafting close behind Gauntlett, going full speed, when Gauntlett swerved, hitting Hooper's front wheel and sending him over the handlebars. Later, the same thing happened to Gauntlett when he plowed into a loose broom handle.
By the time they reached Panama, they were flat broke, with five dollars between them. Most people would stop. Most friendships would fail. But Gauntlett and Hooper never lost heart. Instead, they billed themselves as inspirational speakers and gave talks in Panamanian schools almost every day for a month. They had a bunch of T-shirts made, sold them, and ended up with just enough money to keep going.
Their persistence was rewarded. They saw amazing things. The Atacama Desert in South America, a thousand miles of moonscape: "Not a single animal, not even an insect. Just sand and rock. At nighttime, the stars are unbelievable," Hooper says. They cycled past Argentina's 22,834-foot Aconcagua, through endless grasslands in Patagonia, and into fierce headwinds at the bottom of the continent.
Then, in Punta Arenas, Chile, they needed a boat with a crew to sail 9,000 miles to the south geomagnetic pole, a hundred miles off the coast of Antarctica and deep in the Southern Ocean. They didn't have any money. So they borrowed $90,000—mostly from people they'd met and inspired on their journey—to charter a 67-foot aluminum schooner. They knew it might take a very long time to repay the loans, especially since they didn't have jobs waiting for them at home. But they just didn't want to stop.
Plus, they would have missed some good times. Hurricane-force winds, waves 70 to 80 feet high. Hooper was at the helm, traveling at eight knots without any sails. Just the bare aluminum masts were enough in that wind. Then things got worse. A squall came through, winds over 80 miles an hour. While Gauntlett was below deck, Hooper and another crew member were being blown off their feet. Hooper could only laugh, a reaction one might expect from a young man staring death in the eye. "It was such a ridiculous situation," he says. "It felt ludicrous."