Ranulph Fiennes

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Not to be confused with Ralph Fiennes.
Sir Ranulph Fiennes
Sir Ranulph before presenting to Cambridge University "Enterprise Tuesday"
Ranulph Fiennes in 2014
Born Ranulph Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes
(1944-03-07) 7 March 1944 (age 70)
Windsor, Berkshire, United Kingdom
Education Sandroyd School, Wiltshire
Occupation British Army Officer then explorer/adventurer
Spouse(s)
Children Elizabeth (b. 2006)
Parents Sir Ranulph Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes, 2nd Baronet
Audrey Joan Newson
Relatives some live in the UK, Malta, Dublin, UK, Vietnam (Hanoi), Germany and Australia

Sir Ranulph Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes, 3rd Baronet, OBE (born 7 March 1944), commonly known as Ranulph (Ran) Fiennes (/ˈrænʌlf ˈfnz/), is an English adventurer and holder of several endurance records. He is also a prolific writer.

Fiennes served in the British Army for eight years including a period on counter-insurgency service while attached to the army of the Sultanate of Oman. He later undertook numerous expeditions and was the first person to visit both the North and South Poles by surface means and the first to completely cross Antarctica on foot. In May 2009, at the age of 65, he climbed to the summit of Mount Everest. According to the Guinness Book of World Records he is the world's greatest living explorer. Fiennes has written numerous books about his army service and his expeditions as well as a book defending Robert Falcon Scott from modern revisionists.

Early life and education[edit]

Fiennes was born in Berkshire, shortly after the death of his father, Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Ranulph Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes, commanding the Royal Scots Greys, who died of wounds on 24 November 1943. His mother was Audrey Joan (died 2004), younger daughter of Sir Percy Newson, Bt.[1] Fiennes inherited his father's baronetcy, becoming the 3rd Baronet of Banbury, at his birth. Fiennes is the cousin of Mark Fiennes, whose children include actors Joseph and Ralph Fiennes, and is a distant cousin to the British Royal Family.

After the war his mother moved the family to South Africa, where he remained until he was 12. While in South Africa he attended Western Province Preparatory School in Newlands, Cape Town. Fiennes then returned to be educated at Sandroyd School, Wiltshire and then at Eton, after which he joined the British Army.

Career[edit]

Fiennes at the Celebrating Captain Scott's Legacy: 100 Years of Discovery and Diplomacy in Antarctica event in London.

Officer[edit]

Fiennes served eight years in the British Army – in his father's regiment, the Royal Scots Greys – and was later seconded to the Special Air Service, where he specialised in demolitions.

Service life was enlivened by various scrapes and escapades, including an occasion when Fiennes and another officer procured a very lively, squirming piglet, covered it with tank grease and slipped it into the crowded ballroom of the army's Staff College, Camberley. On another occasion, offended by the construction of an ugly concrete dam built by 20th Century Fox[2] for the production of the film Doctor Dolittle in the Wiltshire village of Castle Combe – reputedly the prettiest village in England – Fiennes planned to demolish the dam. He used explosives which he later claimed to have accumulated from leftovers on training exercises.[2] Using skills from a recently completed training course on evading search dogs by night, he escaped capture, but he and a guilty colleague were both subsequently traced. After a court case, Fiennes had to pay a large fine and he and his co-conspirator were discharged from the SAS. Fiennes was initially posted to another cavalry regiment but was then allowed to return to his regiment.

Becoming disillusioned by his British Army service, in particular his career prospects, he spent the last two years of his service seconded to the army of the Sultan of Oman. At the time, Oman was experiencing a growing communist insurgency supported from neighbouring South Yemen. Fiennes had a crisis of conscience soon after arriving in Oman, as he became aware of the Sultan's poor government. However he decided that the oppression threatened by a communist takeover, combined with moves towards progressive change within the Sultanate system, justified his part in the conflict. After familiarisation, he commanded the Reconnaissance Platoon of the Muscat Regiment, seeing extensive active service in the Dhofar Rebellion. He led several raids deep into rebel-held territory on the Djebel Dhofar and was decorated for bravery by the Sultanate.

Adventurer[edit]

Since the 1960s Fiennes has been an adventurer. He led expeditions up the on a hovercraft in 1969 and on Norway's Jostedalsbreen Glacier in 1970. One notable trek was the Transglobe Expedition he undertook between 1979 and 1982 when he and two fellow members of 21 SAS, Oliver Shepard and Charles R. Burton, journeyed around the world on its polar axis, using surface transport only. Nobody else has ever done so by any route before or since.

As part of the Transglobe Expedition Fiennes and Burton completed the Northwest Passage. They left Tuktoyaktuk on 26 July 1981, in an 18 ft open Boston Whaler and reached Tanquary Fiord on 31 August 1981. Their journey was the first open boat transit from West to East and covered around 3,000 miles (2,600 nautical miles or 4,800 km) taking a route through Dolphin and Union Strait following the South coast of Victoria Island and King William Island, North to Resolute Bay via Franklin Strait and Peel Sound, around the South and East coasts of Devon Island, through Hell Gate and across Norwegian Bay to Eureka, Greely Bay and the head of Tanquary Fiord. Once they reached Tanquary Fiord, they had to trek a further 150 miles via Lake Hazen to Alert before setting up their winter base camp.

In 1992 Fiennes led an expedition that discovered what may be an outpost of the lost city of Iram in Oman. The following year he joined nutrition specialist Dr Mike Stroud to become the first to cross the Antarctic continent unsupported; they took 93 days. A further attempt in 1996 to walk to the South Pole solo, in aid of Breast Cancer charity, was unsuccessful due to a kidney stone attack and he had to be rescued from the operation by his crew.

In 2000 he attempted to walk solo and unsupported to the North Pole. The expedition failed when his sleds fell through weak ice and Fiennes was forced to pull them out by hand. He sustained severe frostbite to the tips of all the fingers on his left hand, forcing him to abandon the attempt. On returning home, his surgeon insisted the necrotic fingertips be retained for several months before amputation, to allow regrowth of the remaining healthy tissue. Impatient at the pain the dying fingertips caused, Fiennes cut them off himself with a fretsaw,[3] just above where the blood and the soreness was.[2][4]

Despite suffering from a heart attack and undergoing a double heart bypass operation just four months before, Fiennes joined Stroud again in 2003 to complete seven marathons in seven days on seven continents in the Land Rover 7x7x7 Challenge for the British Heart Foundation. "In retrospect I wouldn't have done it. I wouldn't do it again. It was Mike Stroud's idea".[2] Their series of marathons was as follows:

26 October – Race 1: Patagonia - South America
27 October – Race 2: Falkland Islands - "Antarctica"
28 October – Race 3: Sydney - Australia
29 October – Race 4: Singapore - Asia
30 October – Race 5: London - Europe
31 October – Race 6: Cairo - Africa
1 November – Race 7: New York - North America

Originally Fiennes had planned to run the first marathon on King George Island, Antarctica. The second marathon would then have taken place in Santiago, Chile. However, bad weather and aeroplane engine trouble caused him to change his plans, running the South American segment in southern Patagonia first and then hopping to the Falklands as a substitute for the Antarctic leg.

Speaking after the event, Fiennes said the Singapore Marathon had been by far the most difficult because of high humidity and pollution. He also said his cardiac surgeon had approved the marathons, providing his heart-rate did not exceed 130 beats per minute. Fiennes later said that he forgot to pack his heart-rate monitor, and therefore did not know how fast his heart was beating.

In March 2007, despite a lifelong fear of heights, Fiennes climbed the Eiger by its North Face, with sponsorship totalling £1.8 million to be paid to the Marie Curie Cancer Care Delivering Choice Programme. On 24 May 2008, Fiennes had to abandon an attempt to be the oldest Briton to climb Mount Everest when, in another climb for charity, he was forced to turn back as a result of exhaustion after reaching the final stopping point of the ascent. A spokesman reported that Fiennes suffered with heart problems and vertigo during the climb.

Fiennes in 2011.

On 20 May 2009, Fiennes reached the summit of Mount Everest, becoming the oldest British person to achieve this. A BBC news report stated that Fiennes was the first person ever to have climbed Everest and crossed both polar ice-caps.[5] Of the other handful of adventurers who had visited both poles, only four had successfully crossed both polar icecaps: Norwegian Børge Ousland, Belgian Alain Hubert and Fiennes. Fiennes, in successfully reaching the summit of Everest in 2009, therefore definitely became the first person ever to achieve all three goals. Ousland wrote to congratulate him.[6] Fiennes continues to compete in UK-based endurance events and has seen recent success in the veteran categories of some Mountain Marathon races. His training nowadays consists of regular two-hour runs around Exmoor.

In September 2012 it was announced that Fiennes was to lead the first attempt to cross Antarctica during the southern winter, in aid of the charity "Seeing is Believing", an initiative to prevent avoidable blindness. The six-man team was dropped off by ship at Crown Bay in Queen Maud Land in January 2013, and waited until the Southern Hemisphere's Autumn equinox on 21 March 2013 before embarking across the ice shelf. The team would ascend 10,000 feet (3,000 m) onto the inland plateau, and head to the South Pole. The intention was for Fiennes and a skiing partner to lead on foot and be followed by two bulldozers dragging industrial sledges.[7]

Fiennes had to pull out of The Coldest Journey expedition on 25 February 2013 because of frostbite and was evacuated from Antarctica.[8][9]

Author[edit]

Fiennes' career as an author has developed alongside his career as an explorer: he is the author of 19 fiction and non-fiction books, including The Feather Men. In 2003, he published a biography of Captain Robert Falcon Scott which attempted to provide a robust defence of Scott's achievements and reputation, which had been strongly questioned by biographers such as Roland Huntford. Although others have made comparisons between Fiennes and Scott, Fiennes says he identifies more with Lawrence Oates, another member of Scott's doomed Antarctic team.

Politician[edit]

Fiennes stood for the Countryside Party in the 2004 European elections in the South West England region – fourth on their list of six. The party received 30,824 votes – insufficient for any of their candidates to be elected.

He is an official patron of the UK Independence Party.[10]

He is also a member of the libertarian pressure group The Freedom Association.[11]

Media appearances[edit]

As a guest on the British motoring television programme Top Gear, as a "Star in a reasonably priced car", his test track lap time, in a Suzuki Liana was 1:51, putting him 26th out of 65. He also appeared in the Polar Special episode, casually berating the three hosts for their flippant attitude toward the dangers of the Arctic.

According to an interview on Top Gear, Fiennes was considered for the role of James Bond during the casting process, making it to the final six contenders, but was rejected by Cubby Broccoli for having "hands too big and a face like a farmer", and Roger Moore was eventually chosen.[12] Fiennes related this tale again during one of his appearances on Countdown, in which he referred also to a brief film career that included an appearance alongside Liz Frazer.[13]

Between 1 and 5 October 2012, and again from 13–19 November 2013, Fiennes featured on the Channel 4 game show Countdown as the celebrity guest in 'dictionary corner' and provided interludes based on his life stories and explorations.

Most recently Fiennes was an expert guest commentator on the PBS documentary Chasing Shackleton which aired in January 2014.

Sir Ranulph makes a number of corporate and after dinner speeches and is represented by the agency, Military Speakers[14]

Personal life[edit]

Fiennes married his childhood sweetheart Virginia ("Ginny") Pepper on 9 September 1970. They ran a country farm estate in Exmoor, Somerset, where they raised cattle and sheep. Ginny built up a herd of Angus cattle while Fiennes was away on his expeditions. The extent of her support for him was so great that she was the first woman to receive the Polar Medal. The two remained married until her death from stomach cancer in February 2004.[15]

Fiennes embarked on a lecture tour, where in Cheshire he met horsewoman Louise Millington, whom he married at St Boniface's Church, Bunbury, one year and three weeks after Ginny's death. A daughter, Elizabeth, was born in April 2006. He also has a stepson named Alexander. In 2007 Louise was interviewed by The Daily Telegraph to help raise money for the Philip Leverhulme Equine Hospital in Cheshire.[16]

On 6 March 2010, Fiennes was involved in a three-car collision in Stockport which resulted in minor injuries to himself and serious injuries to the driver of another car. He had been in Stockport to participate in the annual High Peak Marathon in Derbyshire as part of a veterans' team known as Poles Apart that, despite the freezing conditions, managed to win the veterans' trophy in just over 12 hours.[17]

Awards and recognition[edit]

In 1970, while serving with the Omani Army, Fiennes received the Sultan's Bravery Medal. He has also been awarded a number of honorary doctorates, the first in 1986 by Loughborough University, followed in 1995 by University of Central England, in 2000 by University of Portsmouth, 2002 by Glasgow Caledonian University, 2005 by University of Sheffield, 2007 by University of Abertay Dundee and September 2011 by University of Plymouth. Fiennes later received the Royal Geographical Society's Founder's Medal.

Fiennes was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1993 for "human endeavour and for charitable services" – his expeditions have raised £14 million for good causes.

In 1986 Fiennes was awarded the Polar Medal for "outstanding service to British Polar exploration and research."[18] In 1994 he was awarded a second clasp to the Polar Medal,[19] having visited both poles. He remains the only person to have received a double clasp for both the Arctic and Antarctica.

In the 2007 Top Gear Polar Special, the presenters travelled to the Magnetic North Pole in a Toyota Hilux. Sir Ranulph was called in to speak with the presenters after their constant joking and horseplay during their cold weather training. As a former guest on the show who was familiar with their penchant for tomfoolery, Fiennes bluntly informed them of the grave dangers of polar expeditions, showing pictures of his own frostbite injuries and presenting what remained of his left hand. Sir Ranulph was given recognition by having his name placed before every surname in the closing credits: "Sir Ranulph Clarkson, Sir Ranulph Hammond, Sir Ranulph May"....[20]

In October 2007, Fiennes ranked 94th (tied with five others) in a list of the "Top 100 living geniuses" published by The Daily Telegraph.[21] Also in 2007 Fiennes received the ITV Greatest Briton Award for Sport (other nominees included Lewis Hamilton and Joe Calzaghe).

In late 2008/early 2009 Fiennes took part in a new BBC programme called Top Dogs: Adventures in War, Sea and Ice, in which he teamed with fellow Britons John Simpson, the BBC World Affairs editor, and Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, the round-the-world yachtsman. The team undertook three trips, with each team member experiencing the other's adventure field. The first episode, aired on 27 March 2009, saw Fiennes, Simpson and Knox-Johnston go on a news-gathering trip to Afghanistan. The team reported from the Khyber Pass and the Tora Bora mountain complex. In the other two episodes they undertook a voyage around Cape Horn and an expedition hauling sledges across the deep-frozen Frobisher Bay in the far north of Canada.

In 2010 Fiennes was named as the UK's top celebrity fundraiser by Justgiving, after raising more than £2.5 million for Marie Curie Cancer Care over the previous two years – more than any other celebrity fundraiser featured on JustGiving.com during the same period.

On 18 July 2012 Fiennes was awarded an Honorary Fellowship from the University of Glamorgan.[22]

In September 2011 Fiennes was awarded an honorary doctorate in Science from Plymouth University.

In December 2012 Fiennes was named one of "The Men of the Year 2012" by Top Gear magazine.[citation needed]

Works[edit]

  • To the ends of the earth: The Transglobe Expedition, the first pole-to-pole circumnavigation of the globe (1983),ISBN 978-0877954903
  • Race to the Pole: Tragedy, Heroism, and Scott's Antarctic Quest (2005), Hyperion; Reprint edition, ISBN 978-0786888580
  • Living Dangerously (1988), Time Warner Paperbacks, ISBN 978-0-7515-0434-7
  • The Feather Men (1991) The non-fiction book upon which the film Killer elite is based.
  • Atlantis of the Sands (1992), Bloomsbury, ISBN 0-7475-1327-9
  • The Sett (1997), Mandarin, ISBN 978-0749321611
  • Discovery Road (1998), TravellersEye Ltd, ISBN 978-0-9530575-3-5, (with T. Garratt and A. Brown)
  • Fit for Life (1999), Little, Brown & Co, ISBN 0-316-85263-5
  • Home of the Blizzard: A True Story of Antarctic Survival, Birlinn Ltd, ISBN 978-1-84158-077-7, (by Sir Douglas Mawson, foreword by Ranulph Fiennes)
  • Just for the Love of it: The First Woman to Climb Mount Everest from Both Sides (2000), Free to Decide Publishing, ISBN 978-0-620-24782-5, (by Cathy O'Dowd, foreword by Ranulph Fiennes)
  • Across the Frozen Himalaya: The Epic Winter Ski Traverse from Karakoram to Lipu Lekh (2000), Indus Publishing Company, ISBN 978-81-7387-106-1, (by Harish Kohli, foreword by Ranulph Fiennes)
  • The Antarctic Dictionary: A Complete Guide to Antarctic English, (2000) Museum Victoria Publishing, ISBN 978-0-9577471-1-1, (by Bernadette Hince, foreword by Ranulph Fiennes)
  • Beyond the Limits (2000), Little, Brown & Co, ISBN 978-0-316-85706-2
  • The Secret Hunters (2002), Time Warner Paperbacks, ISBN 978-0-7515-3193-0
  • Above the World: Stunning Satellite Images From Above Earth (2005), Cassell Illustrated, a division of the Octopus Publishing Group, ISBN 978-1-84403-181-8 (foreword by Ranulph Fiennes)
  • Moods of Future Joys (2007), Adlibbed Ltd, ISBN 978-1-897312-38-4 (by Alastair Humphreys, foreword by Ranulph Fiennes)
  • Extreme Running (2007) Pavilion Books, ISBN 978-1-86205-756-2, (by Dave Horsley and Kym McConnell, foreword by Ranulph Fiennes)
  • Travels with My Heart: The Essential Guide for Travellers with Heart Conditions (2007) Matador, ISBN 978-1-905886-88-3, (by Robin Liston, foreword by Ranulph Fiennes)
  • Face to Face: Polar Portraits (2008), The Scott Polar Research Institute with Polarworld, ISBN 978-0-901021-07-6 (with Huw Lewis-Jones, Hugh Brody and Martin Hartley (photographer))
  • 8 More Tales from the Travellers: A Further Collection of Tales by Members of the Travellers Club, M. Tomkinson Publishing, ISBN 978-0-905500-74-4 (with Sir Chris Bonington, Sandy Gall and others)
  • Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know (2008), Hodder and Stoughton, ISBN 978-0-340-95169-9
  • Mad Dogs and Englishmen: An Expedition Round My Family (2010), Hodder and Stoughton, ISBN 978-0-340-92504-1
  • Running Beyond Limits: The Adventures of an Ultra Marathon Runner (2011), Mountain Media, ISBN 978-0-9562957-2-9, (by Andrew Murray, introduction by Ranulph Fiennes)
  • Killer Elite (2011), Hodder & Stoughton Ltd, ISBN 978-1-4447-0792-2 (previously published as "The Feather Men")
  • My Heroes: Extraordinary Courage, Exceptional People (2011), Hodder & Stoughton Ltd, ISBN 978-1-4447-2242-0
  • The Last Expedition (2012), Vintage Classics ISBN 978-0-09-956138-5 (by Captain Robert Falcon Scott, new edition introduction by Ranulph Fiennes)
  • "Cold: Extreme Adventures at the Lowest Temperatures on Earth" (2013) Simon and Schuster ISBN 978-1-47112-782-3

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Who's Who 2014
  2. ^ a b c d Top Gear series 4, episode 9, "Star in a Reasonably Priced Car."
  3. ^ "Sir Ranulph Fiennes, Bt. O.B.E.". Kobold Watch. 2 November 2003. Retrieved 28 March 2012. 
  4. ^ Interview with The Guardian 5 Oct 2007
  5. ^ "Fiennes climbs to Everest summit". BBC News. 20 May 2009. Retrieved 22 May 2009. 
  6. ^ "by Explorersweb". AdventureStats. 2003-09-30. Retrieved 2013-08-16. 
  7. ^ Price, Matthew (2012-09-17). ""Sir Ranulph Fiennes to attempt record Antarctica trek" at". Bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2013-08-16. 
  8. ^ "Home". The Coldest Journey. Retrieved 2013-08-16. 
  9. ^ "Ranulph Fiennes pulls out of Antarctic journey". Usatoday.com. 2013-02-25. Retrieved 2013-08-16. 
  10. ^ Woolf, Marie (26 May 2004). "UKIP sprouts as celebrities make a stand on Brussels". The Independent (London). 
  11. ^ "The Freedom Association - Council & Supporters". 
  12. ^ Top Gear Series 4, Episode 9, airdate 25 July 2004.
  13. ^ Countdown, 19 November 2013. When he recounted this story, Fiennes initially confused Frazer with another Carry On actress, Barbara Windsor, excusing himself on the grounds that they were both "big up top".
  14. ^ http://www.militaryspeakers.co.uk/speakers/sir-ranulph-fiennes.aspx
  15. ^ 'Intriguing past of Sir Ranulph Fiennes's new wife', Daily Mail, 2 July 2006
  16. ^ Cassandra Jardine (2007-04-16). "'"Of course I am an evil, evil woman'"". Telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 2013-08-16. 
  17. ^ BBC News, "Explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes in car crash in Stockport", 7 March 2010
  18. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 50650. p. 11713. 8 September 1986. Retrieved 5 December 2008.
  19. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 53882. p. 17745. 29 December 1994. Retrieved 5 December 2008.
  20. ^ Top Gear series 9, Polar Special.
  21. ^ "Top 100 living geniuses". The Daily Telegraph (UK). 31 October 2007. Retrieved 30 July 2009. 
  22. ^ "Glamorgan graduates meet Britain's most famous modern-day explorer". News.glam.ac.uk. 2012-07-18. Retrieved 2013-08-16. 

External links[edit]

Baronetage of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Sir Ranulph Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes
Baronet
(of Banbury)
1944–current
Succeeded by
no heir