Adventure Film: Journey Into The Empty Quarter With Alastair Humphreys and Leon McCarron

Last year at this time, adventurers Alastair Humphreys and Leon McCarron were in the midst of an epic journey across the Empty Quarter, a massive desert that stretches across parts of Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman and the United Arab Emirates.

They were following in the footsteps of the British explorer Wilfred Thesiger, covering 1000 miles while dragging a cart full of water, food and other supplies behind them for most of the way.

It was a difficult, massive undertaking that pushed the two men to their limits and tested their determination at every stage. Now, a year later, the film of that expedition is available, giving us a glimpse of what they went through for the first time.

I was given an preview copy of the film, which is entitled Into The Empty Quarter, and had a chance to watch it last night. Like all good adventure films, it shows both the highs and lows of the expedition, of which there were many of both. The 53-minute long movie opens with Alastair first reaching out to Leon via email to see if he would be interested in joining him on the expedition. Leon was keen to take on the journey himself, and the two men were soon in the planning stages.

Unable to afford camels to help carry their gear the way Thesiger did, the two men designed a cart that would serve that purpose instead. That cart would become a source of frustration at times, almost bringing the entire expedition to a halt before it could get started. Thankfully some last minute medications allowed them to move forward, although dragging 300 kilograms (660 pounds) of gear would never become an easy task.

The film takes us on a journey that begins on the busy streets of Salalah in Oman, than moves into the remote, desolate desert, before ending in the chaos that is Dubai. Along the way, Alastair and Leon met friendly, interesting people, witnessed stunning landscapes and endured hardships that surprised even them.

This turned into a journey that was so much more than crossing an open desert while following in the footsteps of their hero. The spirit of the adventure is captured well in the film and gives you a sense that this was a difficult slog, while simultaneously inspiring viewers to want to do something similar themselves.

My favorite segment of Into The Empty Quarter was when the boys were moving out of the desert and yet still had 200 miles to go before they reached the finish line in Dubai. As they marched, many passing vehicles stopped to generously offer them water, fresh fruit, good food and even ice cream. This kindness shown to them by strangers clearly moved the two explorers, and as a viewer, it was impressive to witness as well.

The movie made its debut at the Royal Geographical Society back in November, and it is also being submitted to film festivals as we speak. I would be willing to bet that it will become a staple on the adventure film fest tour in 2014.

It is an interesting, beautifully made film that inspires a sense of exploration and adventure from beginning to end, and I get the sense it’ll be a fan favorite with those who watch. Watch the official website for announcements of future screenings, but if you simply can’t wait, you can also purchase a copy of the movie as well.

For a sense of what it is all about, check out the video trailer below. It is definitely worth picking up and would make a great stocking stuffer heading into the holiday season.

Kraig Becker