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Sunday, March 25, 2018

Orlando Duque, The Conqueror

Por Fidel Orihuela

After three months of traveling through the cold Antarctica, the experimented Colombian cliff diver Orlando Duque added another achievement to his extended sheet of accomplishments. He did fancy diving from two icebergs in the far away territory. After captivating the spectators of America, Asia, Africa, Europe and Oceania he was only missing the cold waters from the Antarctica.

Duque, a 43-year-old athlete, travelled as part of the Almirante Tono expedition, of the Colombian Navy, in the ship ARC 20 of July (equipped for oceanographic studies), in which several scientists, researchers and officers from Austria, Argentina, Ecuador, Spain, New Zealand, Mexico and Peru reunited for a task that was not easy, mostly because of the difficulty to find an ideal location that would have the minimum security requirements. About this Duque explain that the instability of the icebergs and the constant danger due to ice breaks or the flip of the ice were the things that the group which accompanied him (a doctor and a nurse from the navy, two Chilean supervisors specialized in polar diving and two spare divers), taking into account the most.

But the intense search paid off because they found two icebergs that had the requirements needed and this allowed Duque to perform three high dives over the 12 and the 20 meters, an inferior height to what he is used to. In professional cliff diving competitions, the platforms are located at 27 meters. There was so much adrenaline and emotion that I did not have the time to feel cold, expressed the extreme sports athlete after the divings, who during the whole time faced a temperature of 1-degree centigrade and a wind-chill of -25 degrees. To bear this hostile climate, Duque was forced to change his tropical habits of wearing just a bathing suit and his loose hair. In the Antarctica he had to wear a neoprene diving suit of seven millimeters thick and a hood that was six millimeters thick and he also wore boots and gloves. The only part of his body that was not covered was his face.

But beyond these safety measures, Duque and his team searched thoroughly the points of fall, taking into account that there are ice floes that are transparent after being compressed thousands of years. However, the advantage of having sunlight for 23 hours of the day (austral summer) allowed to make more careful and deeper inspections to avoid any accident. That way, one of the most innovative objectives of the Colombian Navy expedition was achieved, which was to know the reaction of the athletes in extreme climatic conditions when they were practicing their different sports. After his feat, Duque did not close the doors to the competitions or the adventure and he assured that he might still find some other challenges to accomplish.