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The Adventurer's HandbookLife Lessons from History's Great Explorers
By Mick Conefrey
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright ©2006 Mick Conefrey
All right reserved.
What makes an explorer?
Explorers come in all shapes and sizes, literally and metaphorically. Henry Morton Stanley was small and stocky, Fridtjof Nansen was tall and thin, Fanny Bullock Workman was round and tubby. The American explorer Robert Peary advised in his book The Secrets of Polar Travel that the ideal Arctic explorer should weigh 2-2 1/2 pounds (0.9-1.125 kilograms) for every inch of height and warned that tall men were a liability -- they ate too much, needed too much clothing, and took up too much space in a tent. He also added that, whenever possible, he had selected blonds for his expeditions, ignoring the fact that on all of his Arctic trips he had been accompanied by an Afro-American manservant Matthew Henson. Obviously Henson wasn't in on the secret.
It is equally hard to pin down the archetypal explorer. Some have been tyrants, others team players; some were solitary, others gregarious. Reading through the biographies of nineteenth- and twentieth-century explorers, it is hard to find many common threads. On the contrary, it is striking just how diverse their backgrounds were. They began their careers asengineers, missionaries, sailors, soldiers, journalists, and beekeepers the list goes on. Quite a lot came from the military for the obvious reason that the armed forces were keen on exploration. More intriguingly, a number of explorers came from troubled family backgrounds and several of them lost their fathers at an early age. Almost all of the polar explorers were men; female explorers seemed to be more interested in Africa and the Middle East.
Many were motivated by the desire for fame. At the age of 17, Edward Whymper, the Victorian mountaineer, confided to his diary that he was hoping to become "the great person of my day"; on the other side of the Atlantic, at the age of 29, a desperate Robert Peary admitted in a letter to his mother that he simply "must have fame." A lot of explorers professed in later life to have felt a sense of destiny, a sense that they were cut out to do important things. Others admitted that they "liked the life"; when the Scottish explorer John McDouall Stuart returned from his attempt to cross Australia, he had become so used to sleeping outdoors that he scorned his bed and took to sleeping in the garden.
Some explorers never hung up their rucksacks; others found that they could use their skills to carve out successful careers in completely different fields. Quite a few former explorers finished life as politicians. Their fame got them a foot in the door but their skills as communicators and organizers turned them into successes. Many of today's mountaineers and explorers have made a lucrative career as motivational speakers, spending more time speaking to businessmen than lecturing at the Royal Geographical Society. It is easy to be cynical about this, but to do so is to miss the point that, essentially, all expeditions are projects that have to be managed. Teams have to be selected, equipped, and motivated. Goals have to be set and crises have to be overcome. The physical risks may be greater and the rewards may be less tangible, but it all comes down to knowing what you want and giving yourself the best chance of getting it.
So what makes a good explorer? Adaptability, ambition, stamina, self-belief, doggedness, curiosity, optimism, authority, hardiness ... but before all these come into play, you have to be good at raising money.
I shall tell you what you will do. Draw a thousand pounds now; and then when you have gone through that, draw another thousand; and when that is spent, draw another thousand; and when you have finished that, draw another thousand, and so on; but FIND LIVINGSTONE.J. GORDON BENNET'S INSTRUCTIONS
TO H. M. STANLEY
When J. Gordon Bennet, the famous proprietor of the New York Herald, sent Henry Morton Stanley off in search of Dr. Livingstone, money was no object. There are few explorers who have had it so easy. Funding is, and always was, a perpetual problem. Getting over this first hurdle requires ingenuity, perseverance, and luck. It is one of those times where your people skills come to the fore: how do you persuade benefactors to part with large sums of cash to enable you to realize your dream?
Paying Your Own Way
The Duke of Abruzzi paid his own way, and that of a large retinue of supporters, to the Arctic, the Mountains of the Moon, and the slopes of K2. He was the grandson of the King of ltaly and money was rarely an issue. The British explorer Samuel Baker had a large private fortune that he used to fund his expeditions to Africa. He even paid for his own wife, Florence, after bidding for her at a Turkish slave auction. Their personal wealth gave Abruzzi and Baker a lot of freedom, but few twentieth-century explorers were so lucky; at one point or another, most of them had to tap an external source for money.
What Your Country Can Do For You
The Royal Navy funded many of the most glorious episodes in the history of British exploration. Cook, Vancouver, and Flinders are just three of the naval officers whose voyages of discovery helped to re-draw the map of the world. But the navy also funded some of the most inglorious episodes, the polar expeditions of Franklin and Nares being well-known examples. The problem was that naval patronage invariably came with strings attached. Patrons had to be indulged, officers had to be taken on who weren't suitable for the job, equipment had to be used because "that's how they did it" in the navy. On a smaller scale, though, the military is often worth approaching by independent explorers for equipment and sundry favors. Thor Heyerclalil was able to persuade the British and U.S. Military to donate equipment and rations to the Kon-Tiki expedition by offering to road-test them in the mid-Pacific.
Excerpted from The Adventurer's Handbook by Mick Conefrey Copyright ©2006 by Mick Conefrey. Excerpted by permission.
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