Reviewer: Andrew White
Labelled “The world’s greatest living explorer” by The Guinness Book of Records, Sir Ranulph Fiennes has certainly been to a whole host of rather remote places. He earned the Guinness quote in 1984, and has since then gone on to break many more records and led expeditions to remote regions – so an evening listening to him talk about some of his adventures is not to be missed for any traveller.
The set-up is simple: Fiennes behind a lectern speaking without notes aided with a copious number of excellent photographs on the big screen to illustrate further what he is saying. Harrogate’s Royal Hall is the perfect venue for this, and an almost full house came to hear him speak.
Fiennes starts off where most good stories do – at the beginning – and describes his mother moving him and his family to South Africa just after the end of World War 2, and how, on his return to the UK at the age of 12, he struggled academically at various schools before joining the British Army. A secondment to the SAS eight years later, but Fiennes was later discharged after a range of highly suspect “missions” – and was allowed to return to his former regiment.
It is here when the audience realised they were in for a treat. This was no dry look back on a life, but an extremely witty retrospective from a man very passionate about what he does and the causes he works for.
Fiennes then moves onto talking about being seconded into the army of the Sultan of Oman and his raids in rebel-held territory on the Djebel Dhofar, and how at this time he started to become interested in adventures. In the 1960s he led the first expedition up the White Nile by hovercraft and he recounts how progress was slowed by facing obstacles slightly higher than the hovercrafts would lift over… He then touches on becoming the first on the Jostedalsbreen Glacier in Norway, but the big one he talks about is the Transglobe Expedition he undertook between 1979 and 1982, when he and 2 others journeyed around the world on its polar axis using surface transport only.
An expedition to find the lost city of Iram in Oman followed and then another cold trek with Dr Mike Stroud to become the first to cross the Antarctic continent unsupported. Fiennes cleverly doesn’t allow this to become a “boy’s own adventure” story, by showing the dangerous sides of these expeditions – with graphic shots of frost bites and the like. But on the whole, the tone is a celebration of the determination of Fiennes and his whole team across the decades of doing these journeys, as well as a continued wonderment of this planet we all live on.
Reviewed on: 16th June 2014