Everyone's favourite bookstore when it comes to maps, Stanfords is presenting a series of lectures by author-adventurers. Last night, the Royal Geographical Society hosted James Cracknell, former Olympic rower and occasional adventurer as he discussed his recent race to the South Pole with Ben Fogle. But this was much more than a glorified book signing. Cracknell got the crowd on side early with show-and-tell, passing around his gold medals for us to play with, trusting that they wouldn't be stolen (again), and he revelled in having centre stage for once instead of playing backup to Fogle, joking that without Ben around he could be much more honest.
The lecture/slideshow covered everything from their earlier effort rowing across the Atlantic, their preparations for the race to the pole, their search for a third team-mate, and finally the horror and the beauty of the race itself. He even explained why he had to practice peeing in bed. But perhaps the real insights came during the Q&A when asked to discuss his motivations as an athlete and adventurer, giving us a brief glimpse of what drives these people and separates them from us mere mortals.
There are more lectures planned, and the name Ranulph Fiennes was mentioned, so if you’re keen to hear some modern Magellans discussing what they love doing and see what makes them tick, keep an eye on Stanfords' events list (not yet updated). Even if you can't make the lectures, a visit to the RGS is a good way to avoid the crowds elsewhere on Exhibition Road - there's usually a free exhibition, and at the moment they're displaying some stunning photography from Australia’s Northern Territory.
By Pat Fogarty