The Row To The Pole – Reflections 6 years on

It’s now 6 years since I led the Row To The Pole expedition to the 1996 position of the Magnetic North Pole. People had rowed in Arctic waters before, but very few and almost all in the more open water areas of the ocean. What was certain was that no expedition had deliberately set out to reach a destination only ever reached by walking there – and doing it by dodging the sea ice as it broke up in the Arctic summer. With more open waters around the vast Arctic Ocean today, rowers are seeing challenges of all kinds. But it’s worth reflecting that whatever happens, it is an unforgiving and brutal place to be. In short the Arctic is out to get you and success is hard earned.

I had long planned this adventure and applied my navigational skills from competitive sailing with my Polar expedition and ocean rowing experience to make the project a reality. The full account of the expedition is available in a book called FURTHEST NORTH. A few copies are still available from publishers Frozen World. Email

Our crew were selected in part for their rowing skills, but also because they had other skills in areas like navigation, communications, as brilliant team players or had ‘fixit’ talents: all extra things you need on an expedition where there is no one going to help you if you strike a problem. 

Here’s a video produce by our sponsors ahead of the voyage. The sound track makes it sound like a war movie. Maybe it was!

I did make some skippers picks, but there was also an open competition which attracted over 200 athletes, whittling our choices down through ergo rowing trials and psychometric tests. I like to think that paid off as our training programme built on this to create a really strong team spirit ready to take on anything that came along. 

Here’s a video about the key features of our special boat – a new class of rowing boat in many ways. It was produced ahead of the expedition as we were undertaking our testing and practise rows.

Ahead of the expedition preparations were intense and there was rising media attention. Here’s an interview with CNN on a visit I made to New York. 

Read more about the expedition in other blogs:

The start of the voyage

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