National Geographic has responded to Portland endurance athlete Colin O'Brady's public rebuttal to the magazine's controversial article claiming he embellished details of his history-making solo expedition across Antarctica, saying it stands by the article and will not honor O'Brady's request for a retraction.
On Feb. 2, in a piece titled "The Problem with Colin O'Brady," journalist Aaron Teasdale quotes several polar experts who question O'Brady's claim to being the first person to cross the continent alone using only his own manpower and without any outside assistance.
Related: National Geographic Alleges Portland Endurance Athlete Colin O'Brady Exaggerated His "Impossible" Journey Across Antarctica.
Last week, 48 explorers, including author Jon Krakauer and Borge Ousland, the man many credit with accomplishing the first true unassisted crossing of Antarctica, released a joint letter supporting the article and announcing a new system for classifying polar expeditions.
In response to National Geographic, on Feb. 13, O'Brady issued a 16-page, point-by-point refutation of the article's main allegations against him, writing that the piece "misrepresents a historic polar expedition by omitting key facts and fails to contextualize a number of items," and asking for a full retraction.
Related: Portland Adventurer Colin O'Brady Responds to Controversial National Geographic Article With a 16-Page Public Letter.
In a statement released today, National Geographic wrote that it "stands by our February 3rd article written by Aaron Teasdale about adventurer Colin O'Brady. The recent statement made by members of the professional polar community underscores the article's accuracy. We respectfully reject Mr. O'Brady's request to retract the article."
On Instagram, prior to the response from National Geographic, O'Brady wrote that he received a separate reply from the magazine's Editor-In-Chief, Susan Goldberg, informing him that "several corrections" had been made to the original article. (A representative from National Geographic tells WW that Goldberg did not use the word "corrections" and instead wrote that the magazine would "issue three clarifications.") The article is now appended with a editor's note, dated Feb. 26, saying that the story has been "updated for clarity."
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TRUTH AND TRANSPARENCY - FINAL CHAPTER - I recently received a letter back from Susan Goldberg, the Editor in Chief of National Geographic. The letter acknowledges that they have made several corrections to their article about me. Importantly, at the top of her letter to me, she wrote, “As the article notes, your journey of ‘nearly two months’ though [sic] ‘932 marrow-freezing miles’ was ‘undeniably’ a feat worthy of respect. In addition, the article makes clear that your expedition complied with ALE standards at the time.” The “ALE standards” she is referencing are the classification definitions for “solo, unsupported, and unassisted.” In short, the Editor in Chief of National Geographic is acknowledging that I followed all of the rules that I said I did, using the well-established standards that explorers both before and after me have used. On December 26, 2018 I completed the first solo, unsupported (no resupplies), and unassisted (fully human powered, no kites or dogs) crossing of the landmass of Antarctica. Ms. Goldberg chose to not make a full retraction of the article, but instead made several corrections and attached an Editor's note to the article. She has acknowledged that the freelance reporter pieced together two quotes from two different parts of my book into a single statement which confused the reader, that the sail that Borge Ousland used was not “jury-rigged” as initially reported but in fact a manufactured sail purpose-built for his historic crossing, and that some details of my Greenland crossing which were in the public domain were misreported by Nat Geo. I will continue to acknowledge, as I did on page 49 of my book, the amazing accomplishments of Borge Ousland and the many others who came before me, as well as cheer on those who will push the boundaries further in the future. It’s not my intention to expend any more energy on this so I’ll let the Editor in Chief of National Geographic have the last word: “...your journey of ‘nearly two months’ though [sic] ‘932 marrow-freezing miles’ was ‘undeniably’ a feat worthy of respect.” Onward! #BePossible
"It's not my intention to expend any more energy on this," O'Brady concluded.
The Impossible First, O'Brady's book about his Antarctica trek, was published in January.