There are times in life when being asked to do something throws one into an emotional turmoil of indecision. I remember being asked a few years ago to film an expedition down the Congo River. The expedition leader had met with Preisdent Kabila who had given the go ahead, but could not guarantee our safety through rebel held areas in the north east of the country. I remember being utterly torn about the decision. For once the danger just seemed unjustifiable. If the rebels didn’t get you then in the upper reaches some of the highest densities of hippos and crocs surely would. My dreams were filled with extreme scenarios of disaster, but in the waking hours I thought how amazing it would be to traverse a landscape so few had seen. At that time it would also have been the first full descent of the river from source to sea. Thankfully the decision was made for me. War flared up again in the DRC and the expedition was called off. It did however give me my first glimpse into making these types of choices.
Earlier this year I was faced with a similar choice. I was asked to join a 72 day kiting expedition in the high arctic to Ellesmere Island – truly one of the most remote and seldom visited areas on the planet with herds of polar oxen, arctic foxes and of course polar bears. This time my dreams were of crunching footsteps outside a tent at 40 degrees below zero and nothing except a thin nylon shield between me and the largest land carnivore. Added to that I am now at a time in my life where I have to consider others in my choices. How would my girlfriend cope with me being away for that long? Could I take the knock financially? Importantly it would also involve up to 20 hours of physical training a week for the six months prior to departure. Suffice it to say the choice has been made, and in April of next year I will set off into the unknown with three companions and four Inuit dogs.
This video shows some of the filming opportunities up there:
Once the choice is made it somehow gets easier. One becomes better informed and realistic. More people have been killed in zoos by polar bears than in the wild. My companions have hundreds of days of sled dragging through the arctic between them and I will be in very good hands. Now my thoughts now turn to practicalities. How the heck am I going to film it? What gear will I use and what modifications need to be made to film at -40 (where Fahrenheit and Celsius meet)? Training begins in earnest now and I have the requisite tractor tire to pull around looking like a real moron.
Over the next few months I’ll update my training progress and also give thoughts on gear choices and testing of equipment.