Felix Baumgartner, aka The Man Who Fell To Earth, has been named the winner of the National Geographic 2013 People's Choice Adventurer of the Year. The award is given as a result of an online poll conducted of visitors to the National Geographic website over a two-month period running from November to January. Baumgartner edged out nine other very worthy candidates to earn this distinction after making a historic skydive last fall.
Felix gained worldwide attention last October when he rode a specially designed high altitude balloon up to the edge of space. When his capsule was approximately 39 km (24 miles) above the Earth, he stepped out and proceeded to free fall through the atmosphere. On the way down, he managed to become the first person to break the sound barrier with out an aircraft, reaching speeds in excess of 1357 km/h (843 mph) in the process. He also set a record for the highest ever skydive with his jump starting at an impressive 38,969 meters (127,853 ft).
As impressive as this feat was, Baumgartner did have some good competition for the title of People's Choice Adventurer of the Year. Some of the other candidates included kayaker Steve Fisher, who completed the first descent of the world's largest rapids on the Congo River and climber David Lama, who free climbed Cerro Torre along the 1097 meter (3600 ft) Southeast Ridge. Ultrarunner Lizzy Hawker was also amongst the finalist for her fifth win at the famed Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc and explorer Mike Libecki received the nod for this efforts to continually fill in blank spots on the map.
I have to say that I'm not surprised that it was Felix that went home with the title. After all, he probably received the most press of any of the candidates. His skydive, which was broadcast live over the Internet, held us all spellbound and it was amazing to watch him fall from such great heights. Congratulations to him and his entire support team for earning this honor. Definitely well deserved.