One of the most curious facets of the human spirit is the need to do that which has not been done. All throughout history, man has been on a continuous mission to observe and learn everything that is possible to see and know. And where others have failed before, inevitably there will be someone who succeeds, setting the bar just a little bit higher for those to come.
But what if everyone who came before you died trying to do what you’ve set out to accomplish? Is it worth the risk? Are you able to do it?
Those were no doubt a few of the questions a crew of world-class kayaking experts were asking themselves and each other as they decided to take on the Congo River’s Inga Rapids, the strongest — and deadliest — on the planet. Although the Congo River had been mapped extensively by explorer Dr. David Livingstone in the late 19th century, one section remained a force that claimed not only his life, but the lives of others as well: the Inga Rapids.
Livingston’s successor, Henry Morton Stanley, was also thwarted by the awesome power of the rapids when one of his crew was swept away, calling a somber halt to the expedition. Stanley wrote of the rapids, “There is no fear that any other explorer will attempt, what we have done, in the cataract region. It will be insanity in a successor, nor would we have ventured on this terrible task had we the slightest idea that such fearful impediments were before us.” The message was clear: certain death awaited at the head of the Inga Rapids.
Though there were repeated attempts to map the Inga Rapids, still no one had made it through the terrifying gauntlet. The closest was British Colonel John Blashford-Snel, who mapped the entirety of the Congo River from its source to the Atlantic Ocean with a 160-person crew in 1974 — save for the Inga Rapids. It was in the late 80s that kayaking expert Steve Fisher learned of Blashford-Snel’s expedition, and decided he had to see and know more.
The following is what happens when no dream is too big to pursue, and fear is not an option.