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Exploring, reflecting and changing: going to the furthest extremes – Ben Saunders

About This Episode

Joining Michael on Change Makers today is the polar explorer and campaigner, Ben Saunders, whose goal is to restore the very Earth he has explored from head to tail.

Having skied for more than 6000km on polar expeditions over the last 20 years, including a solo skiing expedition to the North Pole in 2001, Ben holds the record for the longest human-powered Polar journey in history, and the longest solo Arctic journey by a Briton.

Ben Saunders, Polar Explorer & Campaigner

Describing himself as “an entrepreneur, writer, cyclist, runner, weightlifter, dog-lover and husband,” this is the story of a jack of all trades – and master of all too! – with lessons about what it takes to overcome adversity, remain focused and achieve your goals.

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Lockdown List

What is a book that has changed your life?

In the Footsteps of Scott by Roger Mear and Robert Swan. I wrote about the impact it had on me here:

What are you watching at the moment?

Right now I’m in a remote corner of the NW Scottish Highlands (with no TV) so I’m watching the clouds rolling over the Foinaven Ridge.

I quite enjoyed Vigil on BBC iPlayer recently though, and I watched Adam Curtis’s Bitter Lake recently, which was profoundly thought-provoking…

Who is your biggest inspiration and why?

We’re currently staying with John Ridgway and his family up in Scotland (he’s 83 now). Working for him as a teenager was a seminal period in my life – he rowed across the Atlantic with Chay Blythe in 1966, and sailed the yacht that’s outside the window here now no less than four times. It was his energy, courage and fierce determination that inspired me then, although these days I can’t help thinking that his wife Marie Christine is the really impressive one…

In one sentence, describe your new normal.

Less travel, more Zoom, lucky to live in the countryside!


What is your best tip for life?

Work hard and be nice to people.

A quote for life?

I had my first tattoo this year, aged 43, on the inside of my left wrist. ‘Panta Rhei’ which translates literally as ‘everything flows’ and is an aphorism both Plato and Heraclitus referred to. To me it’s a reminder that nothing is forever, and that everything – even the things we perceive as constants – are always changing. Plato said “Nothing ever is, everything is becoming… all things are in motion like streams… all things are passing, and nothing abides”. 

I also love ‘It is one thing to study war and another to live the warrior’s life.’ — Telamon of Arcadia, mercenary of the fifth century B.C.

What five songs made up your lockdown soundtrack?

The Long Journey Home – Catching Flies

Escape Artist – Zoe Keating

August 10 – Khruangbin

All I Know – Rahzel

Culverhouse – Wardown


(I have a pretty rogue taste in music – it’s either for working to, or for working out to…)

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