Ambrogio Fogar, an Italian adventurer who circumnavigated the globe and walked to the North Pole, died on Aug. 23 of heart failure. He was 64.
Born in Milan, Fogar first achieved international fame in 1973 when he sailed around the world. He increased the difficulty of his solo trek by traveling east to west — against the currents and the direction of the wind. Four years later, Fogar attempted to sail to Antarctica, but the trip was a disaster.
During the expedition, a school of killer whales sunk his sail boat. For the next 74 days, he and journalist Mauro Mancini bobbed in open water on a life raft. They were saved when a freighter picked them up 1,300 miles from where their boat went down. Mancini died of pneumonia a few days after being rescued.
Fogar then switched to land-based adventures. In 1983, he completed a seven-week walk to the North Pole with only a dog for company. But tragedy struck again in 1992 when Fogar was severely injured in an auto accident. He was competing in a Paris-Moscow-Beijing car rally when his jeep flipped over in the desert of Turkmenistan. The accident left him paralyzed from the neck down.
Undaunted, Fogar became an advocate for the handicapped. From a wheelchair, he wrote numerous books (“Solo: The Strength to Live,” “Fighting Currents: My Greatest Adventure”) and newspaper articles, and participated in the 1997 “Operation Hope” sailing expedition to promote awareness for the disabled. The trip involved sailing the entire length of the Italian coastline on a boat that had been specially adapted to his needs.
Fogar believed the latest stem cell experiments being tested in China would give him the ability to walk again. Two months ago, he announced his plans to travel to Asia and offer himself up as a human guinea pig to neurosurgeon Huang Hongyun.
“I won’t let go,” Fogar once said. “I hope one day to walk again with my legs. I won’t accept that those whose lives are on hold give up, and I don’t want to believe that I will die like this, immobile.”