Frank Cole

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Frank Cole
Born1954 (1954)
Died2000 (aged 45–46)
Years active1979-2000
Known forLife Without Death

Frank Cole (1954 – 2000) was a Canadian documentary filmmaker who became the first North American to cross the Sahara alone on camel from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea, in 1990. This epic odyssey earned Cole a place in the Guinness Book of World Records. His documentary Life Without Death chronicled his experience and won him several prestigious awards as well as being released theatrically in Paris. Cole was murdered by bandits near Timbuktu, Mali, in late October 2000.

Early life and Career[edit]

Born in Saskatchewan to a New Brunswick father from the diplomatic field, Cole grew up in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Czechoslovakia, Switzerland and South Africa. A well-educated traveller, he studied languages at Carleton University and later 16mm film production at Algonquin College with the legendary documentarian Peter Wintonick. His films include A Documentary (1979), The Mountenays (1981), A Life (1986) and Life Without Death (2000).

1990 Journey Across the Sahara[edit]

Cole managed to cross the Sahara Desert alone on camel, the first North American to do so. The journey took more than 11 months and covered 7,300 km,[1] Cole travelled through Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Chad and Sudan, often passing through civil or tribal war zones, his journey ending at the Red Sea.[2] Cole earned a place in the Guinness Book of Records. Footage from this journey was used in his critically acclaimed documentary Life Without Death.[1]

2000 Return Journey and Murder[edit]

In 2000, Cole returned to cross the Sahara again; this time his plan was to cross and then return from the Red Sea back to the Atlantic Ocean. In October 2000, he left Timbuktu for Gao on the sand track known as Autoroute Nationale. He arrived in Ber and departed eastwards after speaking with the Malian Gendarmerie.

Hours later, Cole met one or two bandits who bludgeoned him to death. Cole fought back but could not overpower the attackers. Cole died at sunset and was tied to a small desert shrub tree for reasons unknown.

His killing included the theft of most of his exposed film recordings and camera gear. The last images of his last trip were filmed in Mauritania and shipped back to his family in Ottawa where they now rest. His camels, bought and tattooed in Mauritania, have never been found.

His remains are thought to have been cryonically preserved at the Michigan Cryonics Institute[3][4][5][6]. Based on the date of his death, he would probably be patient number 35, who was preserved on November 16, 2000.[7]


  1. ^ a b Murray, Michael (31 May 2008). "Ottawa filmmaker's extraordinary life subject of compelling documentary". Ottawa Citizen. Retrieved 26 April 2018.
  2. ^ "A filmmaker's duel with the Sahara". The Globe and Mail. 21 March 2009. Retrieved 6 October 2017.
  3. ^ "Winnipeg Film Group : The Films of Frank Cole: Life Without Death". Retrieved 9 January 2019.
  4. ^ "The Cryonics Society: Cryonics And Adventure". Retrieved 9 January 2019.
  5. ^ "Frank Cole".
  6. ^ "Frank Cole: Life Without Death | The Cinematheque". Retrieved 9 January 2019.
  7. ^ "Patient Details | Cryonics Institute". Retrieved 9 January 2019.