I’m glad to be an ocean rower (aspiring) and not a polar explorer – apart from the risk of losing minor appendages to frostbite, polar exploration is fraught with hair-splitting definitions that would furrow the brow of the finest legal eagle.
A quote from Misadventures in a White Desert, by Patrick Woodhead: “Despite a desperate need for exposure in the press, they [explorers] soon discover that their exploits are only reported if something goes desperately wrong or a world record is broken. This helps to explain why some of the great names in polar exploration are so pedantic about the exact nature of their expedition. With so many of the big prizes already gone, they have to find harder and more elaborate ways of doing the same journey in order to make it into the papers…
…By aiming to complete the first ever British, unsupported, solo ski to the Magnetic North Pole, they will break a new record and the dollar bills will come flying.”
Office politics are stressful enough – if you spend 40-80 hours a week busting a gut for your boss, you want proper recognition for it. Imagine if you were devoting years of your life to planning an expedition – risking life, limb and bankruptcy to achieving your goal – just how much MORE upset you’d be if you felt someone else had stolen your thunder.
So the alternative to being the first/fastest/Britishest is to go for the ‘desperately wrong’ option. Unfortunately you have to judge this one finely to end up on the right side of death-defying. It also has the twin disadvantages of being:
a) by definition impossible to pre-plan, and therefore…
b) not available pre-expedition when you’re trying to impress the sponsors.
It’s enough to make you hanker after the simpler (albeit much more dangerous) days of the gentlemen explorers, when anybody with enough money and sense of adventure could head out into the great unknown territories of the world, without having to emblazon their clothing and/or boat with corporate logos.