Updated: Mar 9
After 36 years of polar exploration and 20 years of data-gathering for Ice Warrior’s scientific partners, the question I get asked the most is "how did you get into this?".
So here goes.
Like most teenagers at the age of sixteen I had teenage angst. Big time! I loved sport. I hated school. I really could not see why attempting to teach me about some weird ancient mythological creatures and their life and times had any relevance whatsoever to my life.
Foolishly or otherwise my school thought my brain had potential and sent me on an Outward Bound, “make-a-man-out-of you” course (as they were then), in mid-winter, in the heart of the Lake District mountains. This properly introduced me to rock climbing, mountaineering and the great outdoors in which I was thoroughly immersed for three hard but wholly satisfying weeks. Coming from a council suburb of London, I was the first in my family to really experience Mother Nature’s wilderness.
It also, crucially, introduced me to myself.
After Christmas I went back to school but still floundered badly when it came to matters, academic. Now, I wanted to get on with life and school seemed to be just a barrier to that - although I had no idea what I wanted to do with myself. As spring emerged and exams were looming I remember clearly the first real turning point in my life.
Having “bunked off” double physics, I sat alone, on a park bench, looking down a long tarmacked hill and felt hugely desperate and depressed .
I started thinking about why we existed. We as humans, what was our purpose? In this whole massive galaxy, as tiny insignificant creatures, why are we here?
Like a bolt from the sky I realised that I would never, ever be able to answer this question. But I really wanted an answer; I really wanted to know. So, if I’m never going to solve this puzzle, what am I going to do about this.
The answer was immediately forthcoming and really positive. I resolved there and then to make this insignificant, tiny, life of mine, as worthwhile as I possibly could.
I had discovered purpose (even if I didn’t have direction).