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Go Big or Gourd Home: Nebraska Man Traverses Missouri River in Hollowed-Out Pumpkin

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at FSU chapter.

How would you celebrate your 60th birthday? Does a float down a river in a pumpkin boat sound tantalizing?

Well for Nebraska native, Duane Hansen, that sounds like exactly the thing to do. In the early morning of Aug. 27, Duane Hansen paddled the Missouri River in a hollowed-out pumpkin boat he had created. It was reported that Hansen’s journey took about 11 hours, leaving the city of Bellevue, Nebraska at around 7:30 a.m. and arriving in Nebraska City just after 6:30 p.m. Hansen and his legendary pumpkin, The S.S. Berta, weighing in at 846 pounds, made their way a total of 38 miles down the river, in an attempt to beat the record. The previously held Guinness World Record of “longest journey by pumpkin boat” was 25.5 miles set in 2018; and despite Hansen’s attempt currently awaiting approval, it will have surpassed the previous venture by a little over 12 miles.

Berta has been the metaphorical and physical “fruit” of years of hard labor and failed attempts. Hansen told TODAY, “You have a lot of failures growing giant pumpkins… I thought I could grow stuff…well, these humble you.” Hansen also points out that healthy pumpkins are difficult to grow even without this particular end goal, requiring meticulous water and fertilizer schedules every single day of the growing season.

The weather and conditions were not kind to Duane on this day and the excursion was almost jeopardized by some particularly scattered storms. It was reported that about eight miles north of Nebraska City, the site of Hansen’s goal, it started raining. Hansen, decked out in only jean shorts and a tank top, was not prepared for this type of sharp weather change and was chilled to the bone. Eventually warming up and resuming positive thoughts and high hopes, he was hit by yet another bout of rain, leaving the S.S. Berta merely eight inches above the water line. The voyage was originally estimated to take a mere six hours, but Hansen predicted the venture would more likely take somewhere from eight to 10 hours. With the current, moving 3.5 miles per hour downstream, Hansen faced the realization that the trek might take longer than he had anticipated.

The expedition was joined by two official witnesses along with friends and family of the brave pioneer. Though Hansen floated in the pumpkin alone, his wife and friends trailed the strange vessel in a boat for two reasons: one, in case something were to go wrong, and two, and perhaps more importantly, to hand Hansen sandwiches and beers along his journey. The S.S. Berta also cleverly featured a hand-carved cup holder in the hull of the ship, apparently coming in handy as Hansen says that he was merely drinking beer to pass the hours.

As I’m sure many can imagine, a pumpkin doesn’t seem a very comfortable ride for 10 minutes, let alone over 10 hours. Hansen told ABC News that the cramped position his legs were in hurt his knees very badly, however, standing could possibly jeopardize the whole trek and this wasn’t a risk he was willing to take. Despite standing being impossible, even just sitting was proving to be tricky.

Hansen told TODAY Berta was extremely “tippy” and maintaining balance proved to be a lot harder than expected. “You just could tip over at any second,” Hansen said. “You’re using your balance the whole time.” Eventually, the conditions of the river proved to be tricky too, with multiple boats going past during the journey, Hansen admitted fearing the wake that came from the boat’s path, saying he just had to ride it out.

What’s next for pioneer Duane Hansen and his legendary pumpkins?

If Morgan Bucholz, Hansen’s daughter, has anything to say about it it’s more, more more! Hansen told ABC News that Morgan suggested he grow a second pumpkin big enough for both of them. “Why don’t you grow a pumpkin that’s big enough for two people…and we’ll go down the river.” Science News Explores identifies that pumpkins can support about 50 times their own weight! So who knows? This dream of Morgan’s might be possible.

After all, it sure was for her father!

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Hey, I'm Chloe and I'm a senior at Florida State! I'm a staff writer at HerCampus FSU and a fun fact about me is that I'm also a certified lifeguard! I love hammocking and reading outside and I'm always down to go for a swim!