Nebraska Man Makes World’s Longest Journey by Pumpkin Boat on 60th Birthday

Duane Hansen in SS Bertha.

On the morning of August the 27th, a Nebraska man woke up on his 60th birthday with a single goal—to raft the mighty Missouri in a giant pumpkin.

This is not the start to a collaborative work between Roald Dahl and Mark Twain, but rather the Guinness World Record-breaking stunt by giant pumpkin enthusiast Duane Hansen, who made it 41 miles down the Missouri River in an 846-pound pumpkin which he christened the SS Bertha. 

Departing from Bellevue in his homemade pumpkin boat, Hansen paddled for 12 hours until he broke the world record of 25 miles set in 2016.

Hansen arrived in Nebraska City at the 41st mile-marker of the mighty river to a cold beer, amid a crowd of “tears, cheers, and swollen knees.”

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“When we first got started it went real quick, like the first five miles felt like nothing,” said Yvone Hansen, Duane’s sister who arrived from San Diego to do the paperwork for the official Guinness World Record attempt. “Once we got about 18 miles in, it started feeling like ‘wow, this is a long trip.’”

Dangers included sand bars, the wake from passing boats, and rocky shallows. In the water, the pumpkin’s spherical shape meant that any direction Hansen moved, so too would the pumpkin. It was an exercise in balance and discipline, and even waving to onlookers was risky.

“You’ve got to be on top of it the whole time—the whole time,” Hansen told local news. “The boats leave the waves and you’ve got to stop everything and just hold on and ride with those waves. That was bad.”

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Hansen, who has managed to grow pumpkins between 200 and 400 pounds, chanced upon the previous world record holder at a giant pumpkin growing seminar in Portland, Oregon. There he decided he wanted to make an attempt at it.

When it was clear “Big Bertha” was going to provide the size needed for Duane, (growing at 14 pounds per day) he knew his time had come.

He used a Bobcat to lift Bertha into a cement pond in order to measure the float point, and then he began carving the cabin into her 146-inch circumference.

WATCH Hansen in action… 

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