An Interview With Pen Hadow

1 January 2012

Of all the expeditions you have done, which have you found the most satisfying?

Becoming the only person solo from Canada to the Pole was an emotionally satisfying experience, but setting up and leading the Catlin Arctic Surveys (2007-12) to investigate the rates, causes and impacts of the unexpectedly fast Arctic sea-ice loss was a more comprehensively satisfying project, not least because it served a wider public value.

What were the first thoughts that went through your mind once you reached the North Pole?

What I felt was utter, utter relief that I had finally done it on my third attempt over 15 years. Immediately followed by a prodigious sense of liberation, for it had become a curse on moving on with the rest of my life (until I had done it). What I thought was: call my wife to thank her for enabling my dream to become a reality. Call my base to arrange the plane to collect me; and call The Times journalist who'd been covering the story thus far. It took 9 days for the weather to clear sufficiently for a plane to pick me up. I had drifted 40 miles in my tent ... and I'd had no food for the last 5 days.

I'm currently training for a half-marathon - nothing compared to the feats you have undertaken I know - but what tips would you give me to keep my motivation up on long training runs?

"If it was easy, 'they'd' all be doing it ... so getting through this is substantially what converting your vision into a reality is all about. This is it. It's the training, not the run itself. Transforming your capacity is always going to be a tough process, but it's a worthwhile process, given you've already attached high worth to doing the half-marathon. That's the difference between you and 99.9999% of the population. ...

You have advised the UN on Climate Change, How do you think this can be combatted or has the damage already been done?

Well, thanks for this! It's probably the most important, large and complex question/challenge the world faces today! My response is to work a) to secure an international treaty to protect the Arctic Ocean ecosystem, b) to create an environmental sponsorship agency so that businesses & brands can engage their stakeholders more effectively with our planet's diminishing life support systems ... And, Yes, massive damage has been done to many ecosystems around the world, but as Earth is the only planet we have, we'd best try and sort things out ASAP.

How do you relax?

Listening to BBC Radio 4 Extra (much of its output is either hilarious or fascinating); drinking coffee in harbour-side cafes in sunshine; reading The Week; and watching my children play sport/ listen to them making music. Simple pleasures!

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