Ben Saunders (explorer)
5 August 1977 |
Plymouth, Devon, United Kingdom
|Occupation||explorer, motivational speaker|
|Known for||First return journey on Shackleton and Scott's route to the South Pole, Youngest solo trek to the North Geographic Pole|
He is best known for leading the first ever return journey to the South Pole on foot via Shackleton and Scott's route in 2013-14, for skiing solo to the North Pole in 2004, and for blogging live from his expeditions. He is the third in history and the youngest by ten years to reach the North Pole alone and on foot.
Saunders has skied more than 3,000 miles (4,828 km) on polar expeditions since 2001. He holds the record for the longest human-powered polar journey in history (2,888 km) and for the longest solo Arctic journey by a Briton (1,032 km).
"I am an explorer of limits – geographically, physically and mentally. It's about pure human endeavour, and the way in which I can inspire others to explore their own personal potential."
The elder of two children, Ben grew up in Devon and Kent, was educated at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, and worked as an instructor at the John Ridgway School of Adventure. He is an Honorary Vice-President of the Geographical Association, an Ambassador for the Prince's Trust, a Patron of the British Schools Exploring Society (BSES) and supports The Duke of Edinburgh's Award and the Orchid Cancer Appeal.
Ben has contributed to a number of publications including Worldchanging: A User's Guide for the 21st Century and 'The Middle of Nowhere' published by Lonely Planet. He also spoke at the 2005 and 2014 main stage TED conferences. He currently lives in London.
North Pole 2001
Ben first attempted to reach the North Pole in 2001, aged 23, on a two-man unsupported expedition led by Pen Hadow that started from the Arctic Cape (also called Mys Arkticheskiy or Cape Arktichevsky), in Siberia, Russia. The pair were unsuccessful in attaining the Pole, but reached a point close to 87° North after 59 days on the Arctic Ocean.
North Pole 2003
In April 2003 Saunders completed a 240 km solo round-trip to the North Pole from the temporary Russian ice station, Barneo.
North Pole 2004 (The Serco TransArctic Expedition)
In spring 2004 he set out to make a solo and unsupported crossing of the Arctic Ocean on foot, with a planned route from Russia's Cape Arktichevsky to Ward Hunt Island, Canada, via the North Pole. Ben was dropped by a Russian Mil Mi-8 helicopter at a start position of N 81'47.6 E 095'49.2 on 5 March 2004, reached the North Pole on 11 May 2004 and was picked up from N 89'30.2 W 088'11.1 (On the Canadian side of the Arctic Ocean) by a Kenn Borek Air Twin Otter ski plane- 14 May 2004.
Saunders' claim to have reached the North Pole solo in 2004 is disputed by ExplorersWeb, a website maintained by rival explorers Thomas and Tina Sjogren, who consider only expeditions that begin their journey on land to be valid. His 2004 expedition started 70 km north of Siberia's Cape Arktichevsky, with his online journal reporting 50 km of open water north of the Russian coastline that prevented him starting from land. ExplorersWeb listed Saunders' 2004 journey to the North Pole as a "partial expedition" on their database of expedition records
In 2004, Australian explorer Eric Phillips argued that this categorization of expeditions may have been a factor in the death of Finnish explorer Dominick Arduin, who died at Cape Arktichevsky in March 2004: "I can't help but think that this tragedy permeated as a result of the pressure placed on adventurers to have their expeditions regarded as unsupported. Again, Explorers Web and others are placing undue pressure on the adventuring community by categorizing expeditions on their achievements... we should not be pressured into feeling that our efforts fall short of somebody else's parameters."
North Pole speed record attempts (2008 & 2010)
On 27 March 2008, Ben set out from Ward Hunt Island, Canada, with the aim of setting a speed record. The current record was set in 2005 by a team guided by Canadian Matty McNair using dog sleds and numerous air-drops of food in a time of 36 days 22 hours. In contrast, Saunders set out solo, unsupported and on foot, but was halted after eight days, on 4 April 2008 due to a broken ski binding. Ben reached a furthest north of N.83.57.686 W. 074.12.566
A second speed record attempt in March 2010 was unable to start due to a three-week period of adverse weather conditions on the far north of Canada's Ellesmere Island.
The Scott Expedition
Between October 2013 and February 2014, Ben and Tarka L'Herpiniere made the first ever return journey to the South Pole from Ross Island on the same route attempted by Sir Ernest Shackleton on the Nimrod Expedition, and by Robert Falcon Scott on the Terra Nova Expedition. At 1,795 miles (2,888 km) the Scott Expedition is the longest human-powered polar journey in history. Saunders and L'Herpiniere set out from Ross Island on 26 October 2013, reached the South Pole on 26 December 2013  and finished their expedition at Ross Island again on 7 February 2014. Although the journey was completed, it must be noted that the Scott Expedition cannot be claimed to have been fully unsupported, since some supplies had to be delivered by air on their return journey.
Robert Swan OBE and Falcon Scott (Captain Scott's grandson) were patrons of the expedition
- Borge Ousland, Norwegian explorer
- Ranulph Fiennes, British adventurer
- Bruce Parry, British adventurer
- Ed Stafford, British adventurer
- Henry Cookson, British adventurer
- Ben Saunders' website
- The Scott Expedition website
- Ben Saunders' 2005 speech at TED
- Ben Saunders' 2012 speech at the London TED salon
- This Much I Know by Jane Oddy, The Observer, 29 February 2004
- New York Times article on Ben Saunders
- Recording of Ben Saunders' speech to PopTech conference in Maine
- Terra Cognita by Joanne Ramos, Intelligent Life, December 2007
- Ben Saunders by Andy Bull, Guardian, March 2008