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In 1990, Erling Kagge and Børge Ousland became the first men ever to reach the North Pole unsupported. The expedition started from Ellesmere Island on March 8, 1990 and reached the North Pole 58 days later on May 4, 1990. They traveled approximately 800 kilometers on skis pulling their supplies on sledges.
Less than three years later, in 1992–93, Kagge completed the first unsupported expedition to the South Pole, covering the 814-mile (1310 km) route in 50 days. Kagge had no radio contact to the outside world for the duration of his expedition. This was featured on the cover of the international edition of TIME magazine on March 1, 1993.
In 1994, Kagge summited Mount Everest, thus becoming the first person to complete the "Three Poles Challenge". For two years during this period, Kagge worked as a lawyer for industrial giant Norsk Hydro.
After his record-breaking feat of reaching the "three poles", Kagge attended Cambridge University to study philosophy for three terms. In 1996, he founded Oslo-based publishing house, Kagge Forlag, which quickly grew to become one of Norway’s leading book publishing companies. In 2000 Kagge Forlag acquired one of Norway’s oldest publishing companies, J.M. Stenersens Forlag. Kagge and Stenersens published around 100 new titles in 2016.
Kagge himself has written seven books on exploration, philosophy and art collecting, which have been translated to several languages. He sometimes writes articles for newspapers and contributes to different books as well. Adventure and exploration remain intrinsic to his nature, and Kagge continues to do expeditions, although with a lower profile than in the nineties. In 2010 he and urban historian and photographer Steve Duncan descended into the sewers, subways and water tunnels of New York - walking for five days from the Bronx, via Manhattan to the Atlantic Ocean. In 2012 he walked the entire length of Los Angeles' Sunset Boulevard over three days with screenwriter Petter Skavlan and gallerist Peder Lund.
In addition to running his publishing business and writing, Kagge is a leading collector of international contemporary art and Russian icons. Astrup Fearnley Museum for Modern Art displayed art from his collection through the summer of 2015. The New York Times has described Erling Kagge as "a fascinating man. He's a philosophical adventurer or perhaps an adventurous philosopher".
Kagge has three daughters: Nor, Ingrid and Solveig.
- Kagge, Erling (1990). Nordpolen: Det siste kappløpet. J.W. Cappelens forlag. ISBN 82-02-12406-9.
- Kagge, Erling (1993). Alene til Sydpolen. Cappelen. ISBN 82-02-14087-0.
- Kagge, Erling (1994). På eventyr. N. W. Damm & Son. ISBN 82-517-8081-0.
- Kagge, Erling (1994). Pole to Pole & Beyond. N. W. Damm & Son. ISBN 82-517-8082-9.
- Kagge, Erling (2007). Philosophy for Polar Explorers: What They Don't Teach You in School. Pushkin Press. ISBN 1-901285-69-3.
- Kagge, Erling (2015). A Poor Collectiors Guide to Buying Great Art. Kagge Forlag
- Kagge, Erling (2015). Manhattan Underground. World Editions.
- Kagge, Erling (2017). Silence: In the Age of Noise.Pantheon. ISBN 15-247-3323-7
- National Geographic Magazine, March 1991
- Buchan, James (January 8, 1993). "Echoes of Amundsen as Norwegian races to Pole". The Independent. UK. Retrieved December 23, 2010.
- "2006 Rolex Awards for Enterprise – Committee Selection". Rolex Awards for Enterprise. Archived from the original on January 9, 2011. Retrieved January 3, 2011.
- "AdventureStats heads-up: Three poles correction – Erling Kagge first". ExplorersWeb. August 13, 2008. Retrieved December 23, 2010.