I am still pinching myself to make sure that I am not dreaming. Last night’s reception for adventurers at Buckingham Palace was simply jaw-dropping. It is a testament to the irresistible allure of royalty that practically every big name in contemporary British exploration was there. I only wish that I could share photos of it with you, but no cameras or mobile phones were allowed, so I will have to resort to the official shots of some of the glitterati of adventurer that were in attendance (more photos here).

The Queen, me, and David Walliams

The event was held to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Scott’s expedition to the South Pole. I was delighted enough to receive the original invitation, but even more excited when I was also invited to a press preview in the afternoon. The Royal Collection and Royal Archives had put together an exhibition of material relating to exploration and adventure especially for the evening, to showcase British Exploring and Adventuring through history. Just a handful of people were invited to this earlier event, including Sir David Attenborough, Michael Palin, Bear Grylls, and my co-winner of National Geographic’s Adventurer of the Year award, Ed Stafford.

In fact, Ed was the first person I ran into as I arrived at the Palace on a blustery and raw winter’s day here in London. I saw a tall, designer-stubbled man asking a policeman where the Privy Purse Door was to be found. I recognised him immediately, and we chatted as we made our way around to the front of the Palace. There we bumped into Falcon Scott, grandson of Captain Robert Falcon Scott, the man in whose honour this event was being held. Scott Jr was having some difficulty getting past a particularly over-zealous policeman on the gate, but eventually he succeeded. Would have been a bit of a shame otherwise, having traveled all the way down from Scotland. As we walked across the darkening forecourt to the Palace entrance we were joined by Sir Ranulph Fiennes and Sir Chris Bonington, both of whom have written books that I devoured back in the days when I was still an adventurer of the armchair variety.

My first impressions once inside the palace were how bright and magnificent it was – and how very nicely warm. Gilt and mirrors were everywhere, and thick carpets hushed our footfalls. We heard dogs barking, and as we passed along a corridor we saw a footman herding a half dozen corgis into a lift – a reminder that this is actually a home, and not just a monument. The exhibition included such amazing things as journals written in longhand by Queen Victoria and Ernest Shackleton, as well as photographs of the Queen as a Girl Guide, many moons ago. She is now 85.

David Attenborough

During the afternoon event I had lovely long conversations with Chris Bonington and David Attenborough, both of whom proved to be absolute gentlemen. At the same age as the Queen, Sir David looks amazingly robust and has the most beautiful complexion, despite his many years of traveling to extreme environments. Sir Chris looks a little more weatherbeaten, but still very upright and vigorous.

Once we had all taken turns in speaking to the cameras, the other guests started to arrive for the evening event and the champagne started to flow. The Queen and Prince Philip arrived and we lined up to shake their hands. We just got a brief hello at that stage, but later on 8 or 9 of us were once again picked out to meet the Queen for a longer encounter. I was first in line, and standing next to Thames swimmer and TV funny man David Walliams. He started joking about Tourette’s Syndrome and had me snorting with laughter. I had to fight hard to paste on a straight face before the Queen approached. We had a nice little chat, very polite, although she grimaced at the news of my adventures. I guess my life is rather different from hers, although for a while back there I had my own (Purple) Palace.

Bear Grylls - note the shoes!

After that the evening became rather surreal. Everywhere I turned there were faces familiar from newspaper articles, books, and TV. Many of these names may not be familiar to non-British readers, but take it from me, these are the who’s who of British exploration. Given how much traveling all these people do for a living, it was absolutely amazing to find them all together in one place. I could say so much about all these people, but to stop this blog from getting too long, I will just list them here.

I spoke with many, many people during the 2-hour reception, including:

Ben Fogle (TV presenter, rower, runner, polar – very nice guy, with jelly bean stuck in throat)
James Cracknell (Olympic gold medal winner, rowing, polar – has recovered well from his bad cycling accident)
Dame Ellen MacArthur (sailing – intense)
Miles Hilton-Barber (blind adventurer – so inspiring)
Benedict Allen (adventurer, filmmaker – very tall!)
Pen Hadow (polar – very amiable)
Ollie Hicks (rower – still planning to row the Southern Oceann – I do worry about him!)
Alastair Humphreys (round the world cyclist – great bloke)
Col John Blashford-Snell (explorer, especially Peru – a legend)
Ray Mears (TV presenter, survivalist – the first)
Bear Grylls (TV presenter, survivalist – the second)
Jo Royle (skipper of Plastiki – great to see her again)
Prince Edward (very pleasant and friendly)
Bruce Parry (TV presenter, Tribes – very funny, swears like a trooper)
Brian Jones (record-breaking balloonist – lovely guy)

Ray Mears and Ed Stafford. And me in the background, still cracking up with David Walliams.

Also there, but I didn’t actually get to talk with them:

Ben Saunders (polar)
Sir Robin Knox-Johnston (sailing)
David Hempleman Adams (polar)
David de Rothschild (Plastiki)
Princess Royal
Princess Beatrice
And no doubt many, many more.
All in all, it was an amazing night to remember. Somebody suggested that they should hold it again every year. I agree. My only complaint about the evening was that it was way too short, and I would have loved to have so much longer to exchange ideas with these incredible individuals. Beyond the stardust, there is an important aspect to what so many of them do: as I said to Sir David Attenborough when I thanked him for all he has done to educate the public about the wonders of nature through his long and distinguished career in TV, people are more likely to care about – and preserve – what they know.

P.S. I see in today’s Times that Sir David Attenborough is denying being a true adventurer. “Any bloody fool can be uncomfortable. If I see a five-star hotel, I’m not going to go on living in a tent.” (Lucky for me there aren’t too many five-star hotels in the middle of the Pacific, because my philosophy would be exactly the same – especially if the BBC was paying.) He is then quoted as saying after his conversation with me: “She said she was going to hang up her oars. I would have hung up my oars a long time ago.” Regardless, Sir David, you have probably done more for conservation than all the rest of us put together. Thank you, and I hope you will carry on doing it for many years to come.

Group photo of the attendees at the afternoon's preview event

38 Comments

  • A well-deserved occasion for you, Roz. You earned every minute of it. You are indeed one of a small and very select group. Thank you.

  • Roz, last night I chatting with a young lady after my climate presentation at the Modesto Junior College and asked if she was a student or a professor. She replied that she is a student, having recently left the corporate world in San Francisco, and is studying sustainable farming. So … of course … that opened the door for me to tell her a little story about you, and guess what: She is 35 and made the decision to change course after she and a friend wrote obits … talk about serendipity … or is it the law of attraction?! So happens she is hopping on a plane to London to conduct her last official function for her former employer, to assist terminated employees of the [unnamed] bank to relocate into new jobs elsewhere. Although Julie will be in wall to wall meetings, don’t be surprised if you receive an inquiry from her.

    Thanks for sharing your fantastic experience.
    Cheers! So proud of you.

  • Here is a link of Sir David Attenborough with Plastic Oceans:

     http://youtu.be/c7MtuG2I_f0

    And of coarse the one of Roz

     http://youtu.be/U0XyATNDDAQ

    Row Roz Row!

    ~Jay

    • 🙂

      Roz Savage
      Ocean Rower and Environmental Campaigner
      First Woman to Row Three Oceans: Atlantic, Pacific, Indian
      National Geographic Adventurer of the Year 2010
      Author of “Rowing The Atlantic: Lessons Learned on the Open Ocean”

      https://www.rozsavage.com

  • That’s really cool Roz! I’m very happy for you, even if as an American I still chuckle at the notion of nobility and subjects in the 21st century. 🙂 But then I understand Europeans giggle when in America–the land of separation between church and state–our presidents are always invoking God. o_0

    So I’m curious, everyone seems to be wearing black, except David Attenborough (who appears to be a very animated fellow, eh?). Is there a protocol for proper attire when attending a royal reception? And are knights of the realm allowed to wear something other than black? You’d think they’d wear a sword too. That would look pretty cool. Do the guards at Buckingham Palace wear swords?

    • Bob – so I won’t say anything about Americans also being into their weapons! 🙂 Sorry – I didn’t notice if the guards had swords. The ones I saw were the kind of real guards, rather than the ceremonial ones in bearskin hats, and I don’t recall seeing any armaments at all, but I wasn’t looking closely.
      The dress code was “lounge suits”, so the men were at liberty to wear whatever colour suit they wanted.
      I am actually quite a believer in the institution of the royal family. And as far as the present incumbents of the position go, I am a particular fan of Prince Charles – a longtime advocate of sustainability, non-GMO, complementary medicine and religious tolerance. He wasn’t there the other night, but I hope to meet him one of these days!

      Roz Savage
      Ocean Rower and Environmental Campaigner
      First Woman to Row Three Oceans: Atlantic, Pacific, Indian
      National Geographic Adventurer of the Year 2010
      Author of “Rowing The Atlantic: Lessons Learned on the Open Ocean”

      https://www.rozsavage.com

      • Prince Charles for president I say! We certainly could use much more sustainability, religious tolerance, and ZERO GMO foods in the states… 🙂

  • Roz,
        Since my interest is in gender differences, I was thrilled to see you among the three women invited to this august assembly of people who stretch the envelope of life. Carry the torch high, girl!! Even years ago when you were rowing the Atlantic, there was something different about the way you embraced the challenge, taping your broken oars together so that you could complete the row, unassisted.  We need more women in the world like you and I’m thrilled that the Queen included you.

    • I was interviewed about why there are not more women adventurers. For sure, we are as capable – but maybe we don’t always believe that we are. This is why I do so many talks at schools – it’s important for boys and girls to realise that adventure is an equal opportunities employer!

      Roz Savage
      Ocean Rower and Environmental Campaigner
      First Woman to Row Three Oceans: Atlantic, Pacific, Indian
      National Geographic Adventurer of the Year 2010
      Author of “Rowing The Atlantic: Lessons Learned on the Open Ocean”

      https://www.rozsavage.com

  • Roz – you wrote: “Somebody suggested that they should hold it again every year. I agree. My only complaint about the evening was that it was way too short, and I would have loved to have so much longer to exchange ideas with these incredible individuals. Beyond the stardust, there is an important aspect to what so many of them do” My Suggestion (I know easier said than done/all busy/etc): how about the ‘British Exploration’ group from Thursday itself holding its own get-together next year.  Scott sailed from Cardiff – there is an exhibition about Scott ‘South for Science’ on at National Museum until 13 May 2012.  Cardiff is a VERY good place for meeting up.  Last night was at IBM sponsored banquet in Cardiff Castle where we had precisely the space ‘to exchange ideas with … incredible individuals’ [Our incredibles last night:  http://a.yfrog.com/img877/3305/66td.jpg].  You could invite Queen or Prince of Wales.  Their timetable needn’t curtail exchange of ideas. 

    • Great idea! But as you said, easier said than done. I won’t have time to do it in 2012, but will keep the concept on file for a later stage when time allows. Thank you.

      Roz Savage
      Ocean Rower and Environmental Campaigner
      First Woman to Row Three Oceans: Atlantic, Pacific, Indian
      National Geographic Adventurer of the Year 2010
      Author of “Rowing The Atlantic: Lessons Learned on the Open Ocean”

      https://www.rozsavage.com

  • p.s.  David Attenborough and ‘Frozen Planet’ featured in our conversational exchange of ideas last night.  American guest next to me is looking forward to series being screened in US 

  • “Prince Charles – a longtime advocate of sustainability, non-GMO, complementary medicine and religious tolerance. He wasn’t there the other night, but I hope to meet him one of these days! ”

    … OK So let’s do Scott ‘South for Science’ and Cardiff Castle with him.

  • BRAVO Roz!!!!….you are a beacon of hope in some stormy environmental seas.
     A regal rower indeed….. the Queen of the Oceans 🙂
    David

  • Thought you might be interested in this story  Fishermen unravel family mystery after month at sea  http://www.abc.net.au/news/2011-12-12/fishermen-unravel-family-mystery-after-month-at-sea/3727492 BTW many congrats on HRH meeting. Cool that you got to meet people we can only read about! Jim Bell of Belmont (NSW Australia)

  • My dear Roz, what an inspiring and rewarding experience to be summoned by the Queen.  I would hope to refer to you as your Ladyship one day.

    The best to you always as you continue to persevere in your next project, which I hope includes a Kohola..

    Best to you and your family for the Holidays.

    Fondly,

    Jeanne

    • Jeanne – that is so sweet of you. Minor point of protocol – I believe that only the wives of lords get to be ladies. Women who earn an honour in their own right are called Dame xxx. Not very cool as titles go, alas, but that’s the way it goes!
      Wishing you all the best for the holidays too.

      Roz Savage
      Ocean Rower and Environmental Campaigner
      First Woman to Row Three Oceans: Atlantic, Pacific, Indian
      National Geographic Adventurer of the Year 2010
      Author of “Rowing The Atlantic: Lessons Learned on the Open Ocean”

      https://www.rozsavage.com

  • I see the Queen is holding a wine glass in your photo. Do you know what she was drinking?

    I’ve noticed that in a lot of photos of her at events, she’s holding a wine glass filled with clear liquid (gin maybe?) And I saw a documentary about her once that noted that at all official dinner parties, when everybody else is served their wine, the Queen is always to be served her “special drink.” And it is always a wine glass filled with clear liquid (in addition to the water goblet.)

    Just curious!

    • I’m pretty certain it was a glass of water. It had ice in it, and no bubbles. Sorry not to be able to dish up some more interesting gossip!

    • ….in reply to sugarlee128…

      Roz, as with the post from JT, popularity has it’s crests and troughs. Some of the low points are much dippier than others. Better that you take this comment on the chin 🙂

      Sugarless128, please check your blood sugar levels, amount of intoxication and/or psychological history (as well as grammar)

      If indeed you and JT are using this forum as an avenue to seek medical/psychological help. Please email me at once with the city and country that you are in and I will do everything possible to get you the help that you need….

      Outsidejay@gmail.com

      Row Roz Row!

      ~Jay

    • Ari and Ara, I read your blog from March to December, as well as Johnson’s and your posts http://bit.ly/UWA28Mar11 and think as I did back then that you either have not followed Roz’s blogs or completely miss what is so obvious: Roz is drawing awareness to many issues from plastic in the ocean, habitat destruction and torturous death to sea life that results, ocean acidification from the release of carbon into the atmosphere, you name it.

      Did you see http://bit.ly/RozOzDay129

      I know you mean well in being vocal, but do wish you would read more of what Roz has written. I believe you will find the gems of awareness and encouragement to take your own personal action hidden amongst the many adventure and philosophical writings. Roz has put out an amazingly eclectic bit of work which is both inspiring and educational. Roz gives people a place to jump onboard and chat among ourselves, leveraging her own passions and messages. You may have seen my posts by several dozen of us who support and promote Roz’s causes, and this one which I am pleased to repeat: http://bit.ly/OurTodayIsForever

      Cheers, Ari and Ara!

      P.S. Roz has inspired me to do what makes my heart sing, to pick a few things that I love to do and to do them, and spread the word. Here are a couple things I do these days which have helped to raise awareness and produce a shift from apathy among the people to action to change one small part of society.

      I think you will get the point if you read between the lines … http://bit.ly/TellBarack http://bit.ly/SomethingDaily

    • Sugarlee128 and your friends; Happy Holidays!

      My gift to you…

      Original story, by David J. Pollay ]

      Sixteen years ago I learned an important life lesson, in the back of a New York City taxi cab.I hopped in a taxi, and we took off for Grand Central Station.  We were driving in the right lane when, all of a sudden, a black car jumped out of a parking space right in front of us.

      My taxi driver slammed on his brakes, skidded,and missed the other car by mere inches! The driver of the other car, the guy who almost caused a big accident, whipped his head around and started yelling bad words at us.  My taxi driver just smiled and waved at the guy.  And I mean, he was actually friendly!

      So, I asked him, “Why did you just do that? This guy almost ruined your car and could’ve sent us to the hospital!” And this is when my taxi driver told me about what I now call, “The Law of Garbage Trucks.”

      “Many people are like Garbage Trucks. They run around full of garbage, full of frustration, full of anger, and full of disappointment. As their garbage piles up, they need a place to dump it, and if you let them, they’ll dump it on you.  When someone wants to dump on you, don’t take it personally. Instead, just smile, wave, wish them well, and move on. You’ll be happier because you did.”Wow.  That really got me thinking about how often do I let Garbage Trucks run right over me? AND, how often do I then take their garbage and spread it onto other people: at work, at home, on the streets? 

      It was that day I resolved, “I’m not going to do it anymore.”Since then, I have started to see Garbage Trucks everywhere.  Just as the kid in the Sixth Sense movie said, “I see dead people,” I can now say, “I see Garbage Trucks.” :)I see the load they’re carrying … I see them coming to drop it off.  And like my Taxi Driver, I don’t make it a personal thing; I just smile, wave, wish them well, and I move on.

      Take care, *waving and smiling* ~Jay

  • It is like I’m traveling with Roz. I like it. hehehe… Thanks Roz for posting this article. It’s really a nice article.

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