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David Hempleman-Adams
"There's adventure in all of us"
 real 28k

David Hempleman-Adams
"It was the harness that stopped me going over"
 real 28k

David Hempleman-Adams
"Anything's possible"
 real 28k

Monday, 5 June, 2000, 17:13 GMT 18:13 UK
Ask David Hempleman-Adams

Adventurer David Hempleman-Adams has just become the first person to fly to the North Pole in an open balloon.

His epic 132-hour flight also smashed the British solo ballooning record, which stood at 13 hours.

But it wasn't all plain-sailing. The five day journey was filled with drama - at one point the 43-year-old adventurer even found himself trying to clamber out of the basket in his sleep.

We put your questions to adventurer David Hempleman-Adams.

John Malcolm, UK: David: Well done on a fabulous achievement. What on earth makes you attempt these things?

Hempleman-Adams: I just think that there's adventure in all of us, and it doesn't matter if you want to climb Everest or Snowdon, but if you want to go and do it just try, that's all, just go and have a bit of fun and that's what I've done and that's what I've always tried to instill, and just push yourself.

Matt, UK: I have had a few sleep walking experiences, but none of them come close to this. What went through your mind when you finally woke up, and did you feel a bit of a idiot?!

Hempleman-Adams: No, just scared. What happened was I got into such a deep sleep, I hadn't slept for 2 days, so I got into such a deep sleep, and the claxon woke me up and it was just that scare, in that split second, that I thought 'Christ I've got to get out of here' and it was the harness that saved me going over.

Richard Benham, USA (ex-pat) - Lufbra balloon team: What is the next adventure you plan and what have you learnt about yourself from the event.

Hempleman-Adams: At the moment I haven't even gone home yet, so it'll be nice just to go home and have a bath and then down the pub, I think that'll be my next adventure.

Rory Byrne, England: David - First off congratulations, it must have been one hell of journey. What was going though your mind for the most part of the flight, or did you have to kept totally focused on flying throughout?

Hempleman-Adams: Totally focused on flying throughout. The autopilot helps but if you take your mind off the ball you're stuffed really so it was constant pressure throughout.

I suppose what I've learnt at my old age is that anything is possible, but the other thing is teamwork, although I was just the monkey in the basket it took a huge team and a very professional team to get me there and back and that's the important thing, to have created this team and they performed so fantastically, just as one family really.

Philip Levy, UK: Congratulations on your fantastic achievement. What would you say to people who question the validity of your claim to reaching the North Pole as you were still 12.9 miles away.

Hempleman-Adams: It was always the case of trying to get within 1 degree of the pole. If you want to get to the pole and be accurate 90 degrees, which I've done before, you have to walk, you can't fly, you could do it in a helicopter but a balloon is probably the worst thing in the world to fly accurately. If you think of 800 miles down from London to say, the South of France, to get within 12 miles of your target is a miracle and what we tried to do was get within one degree, the authorities have accepted that as reaching the north pole, and anything extra was a bonus, so to get within 12 miles was a bonus. There's no way you could get any more accurate than that, it's simply an impossibility in a balloon.

Huw Gill, UK: When can we expect another excellent book??

Hempleman-Adams: Hopefully there'll be one early next year, I'll start writing now so hopefully we'll get something in the system about this adventure.

Jeremy Maloney, USA: Past or present, which adventurer do you really admire? Has anyone been really inspirational to you in your life?

Hempleman-Adams: I have to say Saloman Andree who did this trip, he inspired me to go, it was a fantastic story and a beautiful story really, and it was a tragedy that they didn't get back safely. There were two things I thought of when we reached the pole, one the fact that we'd got there and secondly that poor old Andree who was out there before didn't get back.

G Williams, Wales: What do your friends and family make of your adventures?

Hempleman-Adams: I think they're used to it to be honest and they just say 'get on with it', give me the credit cards and get on with it, but it's just been very lucky, that's the thing.

Arnold Abrahams, England: Did you have a weapon with you to tackle an angry polar bear if you'd landed next to one?

Hempleman-Adams: Yes I took a 306 rifle just in case of polar bears and that was stowed in the basket.

Sam Jones, Isle of Man: What did you do to keep yourself amused?

Hempleman-Adams: Just flying and doing the navigation and the radio work there was no time to get bored. I had a little radio to listen to the BBC World Service with, but I didn't bother because there was so much to do.

Lucy Cooke, UK: If you were stranded on a desert island and you could take one luxury item with you, what would it be?

Hempleman-Adams: I'd take a female! Other than that a saxaphone, I've always wanted to learn the saxaphone and it would be a good place to go and practice.

Kathy Simmons, UK: I know it's a bit of a personal question, but it's one that's bothering my colleagues - what were the toilet facilities like in your capsule?!

Hempleman-Adams: Just a bucket, a plastic bucket, so you went in the bucket and then it went over the side.

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See also:

01 Jun 00 | Europe
Balloonist on top of the world
22 Mar 99 | Great balloon challenge
Special report: Aviation's last great challenge
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