'Dream big and dare to fail'

Norman Vaughan, who as a young man explored Antarctica and spent much of his life seeking adventure, died on Friday just a few days after turning 100 years old.

Vaughan died at about 10.30am local time at Providence Alaska medical centre surrounded by family and friends, said nursing supervisor Martha George.

Vaughan was well enough on Saturday to enjoy a birthday celebration at the hospital attended by more than 100 friends and hospital workers. His actual birthday was on Monday.

Vaughan’s motto was “Dream big and dare to fail”. As a young man, he joined Admiral Richard Byrd on his expedition to the South Pole in 1928 and 1930 as a dog handler and driver.

Days before his 89th birthday he and his wife, Carolyn Muegge-Vaughan, returned to Antarctica and climbed to the summit of 3 096m Mount Vaughan, the mountain Byrd named in his honour.

“It was the climax of our dream,” he told The Associated Press in a 2005 interview at his Anchorage home.
“We had to risk failure to get there. We dared to fail.”

Vaughan continued to seek adventure his entire life. His exploits included finishing the 1 770km Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race six times after age 70. At age 96, he carried the Olympic torch in Juneau, passing the flame from a wheelchair, 70 years after he competed in the Olympics as a sled-dog racer.

He wanted to climb Mount Vaughan again to celebrate his 100th birthday, but the expedition fell short of money. He planned to sip champagne at the summit—the first taste of alcohol for the lifetime teetotaller.

“The only liquor I’ve ever had was the taste of wine at communion,” he said. “I told my mother I wouldn’t drink until I was 100 and she said, ‘That’s all right.”

Vaughan had a taste of champagne on Saturday during his birthday celebration.

Vaughan was born on December 19 1905 in Salem, Massachusetts. He was the son of a wealthy leather tanner and shoe manufacturer. In his youth, he became fascinated by tales of early-century polar explorers.

In 1925, he entered Harvard College left to join Byrd on his expedition, which included creation of the first settlement in Antarctica and the first air flight over the South Pole. Vaughan was part of a crew that drove dog teams 2 414km across the frozen continent to collect geological samples and other scientific data.

After serving in the Korean War, Vaughan started making frequent trips to Alaska, moving permanently to the state at age 67. He arrived in Anchorage nearly broke. His first job was shovelling snow from sidewalks to pay for room and board, and he followed that with a stint as a dishwasher.

Despite his accomplished past, he felt no embarrassment about his humble beginnings in Alaska.

“If you don’t look for challenges, you become a follower,” Vaughan said. “Challenges are self-satisfying for a person, testing himself on whether he can do it or not, analysing for himself his character. Many times it answers a great question for the person.”—Sapa-AP

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