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Breakfast with Frost
Pen Hadow
Pen Hadow, Arctic Explorer
Interview with Pen Hadow, Arctic Explorer on Sunday 01 June 2003.

Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used

DAVID FROST: And now from one man who is fighting back after injury at tennis, with the Achilles heel healing, to someone who took two months and was the fulfilment of a promise - a promise he had made to his father shortly before he died. Pen Hadow's 477 mile solo trip - some people say 478, I don't know that he was counting - across the icepacks of the Arctic to the geographical North Pole was a terrific feat.

I mean outstanding, invincible feat of courage and determination. And if that wasn't enough, he was then forced to spend eight days stranded on the floating ice waiting to be rescued, with dwindling supplies - very, very much dwindling supplies - and worsening weather. And he joins us now here in the studio, and here he is, Pen welcome.

PEN HADOW: Thank you very much.

DAVID FROST: Very good to have you with us.

PEN HADOW: Thank you. Thank you.

DAVID FROST: And this is, is this the surviving ski? Because one of the things that complicated your efforts considerably was losing the other one.

PEN HADOW: I was forced to walk with one ski on.

DAVID FROST: And how heavy was, what you were walking with?

PEN HADOW: Well it started off about nearly 20 stone, the sledge, and, but by that stage, this is about day 45 I lost the ski, so it was down to about half that weight.

DAVID FROST: Well do sit down, make yourself at home here.

PEN HADOW: Thank you very much.

DAVID FROST: You've earned a rest on this yellow sofa. Here's all the other equipment here and so on. And you'd had this dream for 15 years.

PEN HADOW: Yes I done a 70 day sledging journey that was unsupported, photographing polar bears, and it just, on the flight back in 1989, it suddenly occurred to me that I'd been on the sea ice for about 70 days in a different location, in the Spitzburgen area, and going to the north geographic pole was a sea ice journey of about 70 days duration, so, I wasn't that far away from making it a reality.

DAVID FROST: And in fact you were the first person to reach the pole from Canada, solo and unsupported, 477 or 478 miles -

PEN HADOW: Who's counting.

DAVID FROST: Who's counting. But 64 days, and you had to swim through icy water on lots of occasions and, but you had an immersion ...

PEN HADOW: An all-in-one immersion suit, so I could take my skies off, keep my boots on, keep my mitts on, keep the clothing on and just climb into it, zip it up and the only thing that was left exposed was my face - actually it was just my nose and my mouth, using a drawstring just to tighten it all around that. And then I'd lower myself into, either into water or into thin ice - punch my way through the thin ice - and then either have to break my way across this, a bit like a canal, of 400 metres wide, ten metres wide or whatever, and then climb out the other side, which was sometimes easy and sometimes quite scary, because 60 minutes in the water you get pretty cold and, and very tired if you're breaking through ice all the time.

DAVID FROST: So you might not get out the other side?

PEN HADOW: That's always a possibility, yeah. But the biggest fear, to be honest, was the, if there was, had been a bear patrolling these waterways - which they do, because that's where the seals are, obviously in the waterways - even though I had a gun on the top of the sledge, there was no way realistically that I was going to be able to get it off and fire it with these huge sort of integral mitts in this immersion suit. So you were a dead man if that happened. I did see a seal carcase on the far side on one occasion, which was very alarming, but -

DAVID FROST: And a little bird you saw, a couple of seals and that was it, and no human being.


DAVID FROST: But if you'd seen a polar bear close up, that could have been your last vision on earth.


DAVID FROST: Almost certainly.


DAVID FROST: And what did you think about to keep you going? I mean you thought about the family - you said that the thought of the family made you not take unnecessary risks.

PEN HADOW: I think that was there, that turned out to be their primary role, in really yes. What kept me going? I think just an obsession and a desperation to succeed. You know, I'd tried twice before, getting closer each time, and it meant so much to me in so many different ways - I mean there was a cocktail of ingredients of motivations for doing these things, and in a way even during the journey that, the ingredients changed in proportions as I went along, and I drew on different ones at different times or ... the surface in my mind and I'd, and I'd think about them and use them to keep me, keep me motivated through the harder times, because there were occasions when it was pretty desperate.

DAVID FROST: And you dedicated it, really, to your father, to the memory of your father.

PEN HADOW: Yes that's right.

DAVID FROST: He would have been very excited.

PEN HADOW: Well I'm sure he would have been pretty proud. I mean he had always encouraged me, anything I'd shown any interest in, if I wanted to sort of do more with it, he'd give me terrific support. But his great thing was that he helped me to understand if I wanted to do something well, how to go about it, how to sort of set goals and so on. So he wasn't, he was never pushing me but he sort of made it clear from a sort of intellectual point of view how one breaks down a project and how one analyses one's talents and how one reviews failures and learns, you know, learns from it.

DAVID FROST: And right up to the end, I mean the day before the end one of the reports said you managed 20 miles in 15 hours, which is absolutely astonishing. Was the most dangerous moment in fact those last eight days when you had reached your destination but they couldn't reach you?


DAVID FROST: Was that the most dangerous for you?

PEN HADOW: No, actually it was the most deathly dull experience. I was just lying there in this sort of sleeping bag in a sort of mummified position, watching the tent sort of being thrashed by the wind - and it was pretty deafening as well - with nothing to do except wait for the plane and provide weather information to the pilot. So, no I felt completely secure, I knew I was going to get collected at some point, there were far more alarming moments during, during the expedition itself. The expedition does not end until you're off the ice so I certainly felt anxious that the project was not yet complete and I did not want a mistake at the last minute.

DAVID FROST: And you, you reject the rescuers who thought you took an uncomfortable risk in going this late?

PEN HADOW: Yeah, that is nonsense. It's nonsense. There are lots of expeditions that are, I would say a good proportion of expeditions of these, the long range sort of calibre, that arrive after my date, up to two or three weeks later.

DAVID FROST: And after this triumph, Pen, everyone I'm sure would be fascinated to know, what next? What's your next target?


DAVID FROST: We don't know.

PEN HADOW: I know, everyone else doesn't. There is something that's going to be pretty interesting ... that we will announce quite shortly. It's all set up, let's just say it's definitely not the northern end.

DAVID FROST: Right. But it could be the southern end and it could involve skis and sledges?

PEN HADOW: But if I was to take two skis I'd hope that they both arrived at the other end.

DAVID FROST: At the other end.


DAVID FROST: Well good luck whatever it exactly is. Thank you very much, a staggering achievement, thank you very much indeed.

PEN HADOW: Thank you.

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