By Christopher Galvan
Cal Poly Pomona welcomed master explorer and prolific author Sir Ranulph Fiennes for the new year’s first installment of the Kellogg Distinguished Public Lecture Series.
Fiennes’ lecture, “Living Dangerously,” discussed his life as a soldier, son, writer and adventurer.
Named the “world’s greatest living explorer” by the Guinness Book of World Records, Fiennes has made a name for himself as an avid explorer and philanthropist. He has raised over $21 million for various charities through multiple explorations and challenges. Fiennes is credited with being one of the first people to completely cross Antarctica on foot without support.
“What really started off my life of exploration was not being able to pass some of my exams [in college], which only allowed me the maximum of eight years service in the British Army without a commission,” sad Fiennes.
Fiennes’ exploratory career took root during his service, including an 18-month stint with the Special Air Service where he learned how to properly handle explosives. At the time, he was the youngest captain the British Army.
After completing his counter-insurgency service with the army of the Sultan of Oman, Fiennes began to pour his life into exploration and adventure. Since the late 1960s, he has traveled up the White Nile on hovercraft, traversed Norway’s Jostedalsbreen Glacier, circumnavigated the planet from pole-to-pole, discovered a lost city in the deserts of Oman and more.
He and his team were the first and only people to complete a circumnavigation of the world on its polar axis by surface transport only. Fiennes said that his “Transglobe Expedition” with fellow SAS members Oliver Shepard and Charles Burton was one of his most rewarding expeditions, taking almost three years to complete.
Fiennes has escaped daring and dangerous situations in the past, but said that preparation is key.
During a 2000 attempt to walk solo and unsupported to the North Pole, he faced serious injuries. After his sleds fell through weak ice, Fiennes had to decide to save his sleds or risk surviving without their contents until help arrived. He stuck his bare hands into the freezing water and reclaimed his supplies, developing severe frostbite on all of the fingertips of his left hand. Later, against his doctor’s wishes, he amputated the tips himself with a fretsaw after the discomfort became unbearable. This tenacity has helped him earn a reputation as a leader of global exploration.
“Over several decades and more explorations, we have had about a 45 percent success rate with teams of people, sponsors and careful preparation,” said Fiennes about his approach to life and living dangerously. “Risks lead to a greater possibility of failure; we should always carefully prepare and learn to avoid taking risks as intelligently as possible.”
Fiennes went on to climb Mount Everest two times between 2007 and 2009. He successfully summited the mountain on his second trial, but suffered from exhaustion and vertigo during his first ascent. He is the oldest British person to have summited Mount Everest, as well as the first person ever to have climbed the mountain and crossed both polar ice caps.
While to most people exploring the world is a full-time job, Fiennes has also managed to write 14 fiction and non-fiction works. Both his novels and non-fiction works discuss his service with the British Army, as well as many of his expeditions.
Attendees of the lecture were audience to a lengthy lecture by Fiennes, who took many questions from the audience.
When asked if he had any advice for college students, he shared a relevant saying.
“Listening is so important in life,” said Fiennes. “I always think of an Arab proverb that I’ve remembered that says we were born with two ears and one mouth that we may listen more and talk less.”
Students who attended the lecture had positive thoughts about Fiennes’ message.
“I’m always interested in this lecture series,” said second-year graphic design student Daniel Aley. “I’ve been to the past few lectures and have always enjoyed them.”
Fourth-year liberal studies student Lavra Mac also enjoyed the event.
“This is the first of these seminars that I have been to with a guest speaker like this, so it was really exciting to hear his story, his point of view and his outlook and approach on life,” said Mac.
The Kellogg Distinguished Public Lecture Series has hosted many prominent speakers, including Dolores Huerta, Patricia Arquette and Jared Diamond.
Chris Maciosek / The Poly Post
Sir Randulph Fiennes
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