If you’re a fan of British adventurer Sir Ranulph Fiennes or documentaries about exploration, there is a film coming out this week that will likely be of interest. The documentary Explorer is set to release in the UK on July 14—with a worldwide release coming to video on demand on August 29. Based on the trailer above, it looks like it should make for interesting viewing, whether you know anything about Sir Ran or not.
Who is Ranulph Fiennes?
Often described as “The World’s Greatest Living Explorer,” Ranulph Fiennes is certainly one of the most active adventurers of the past 60 years. He has led numerous expeditions to a variety of locations across the globe and holds several endurance records, including being the oldest Briton to summit Mt. Everest—something he did in May of 2009 at the age of 65.
Born March 7, 1944, in Windsor, Berkshire, Fiennes spent much of his early years living in South Africa, before returning to the UK at the age of 12. Later, he served eight years in the British Army, at one point joining the ranks of the legendary Special Air Service (SAS). While he did graduate from officer school, Fiennes military career was mostly defined by several colorful escapades, including the demolition of a dam built for use in the production of a movie. Following a court case, he was ordered to pay a fine and was kicked out of the SAS.
For the last two years of his military career, Fiennes served as part of the army of the Sultanate of Oman. There, he worked as part of a counter-insurgency team battling communist rebels in Yemen. That post disillusioned him on military activities, leading to his eventual relinquishing of his command in 1971.
The Life of an Explorer
Fiennes time in the military made it clear that he did not want to live an ordinary life. His adventurous spirit and natural curiosity led him to want to push himself to the limits while exploring sections of the world that remained remote and largely unknown. Some of his early exploits included traveling up the White Nile in Africa using a hovercraft and trekking across the Jostedal Glacier in Norway. Those journeys would only whet his appetite for bigger adventures to come, however, with some amazing expeditions that remain impressive feats to this day.
It was the Transglobe Expedition that truly put Ranulph Fiennes on the map as an adventurer and explorer. On that journey, Fiennes—along with Oliver Shepard and Charles Burton—set off to complete the first circumnavigation of the globe via the North and South Pole. The team followed the Greenwich Merdian as closely as they could, sailing over oceans and crossing both the Arctic and Antarctic icecaps. The expedition began in September of 1979 and took 14 months to complete.
Other highlights of Fiennes’ resume include visiting the North and South Pole on other occasions, as well as discovering the lost city of Ubar in the desert of Oman in 1991. In 2003 he also completed seven marathons on seven continents in seven days just months after suffering a heart attack. In addition to climbing Everest in 2009, he also scaled the Eiger in 2007 and completed the Marathon des Sables in 2015 at the age of 70.
Perhaps the most legendary story about Ranulph Fiennes revolves around his missing fingers. While undertaking a solo expedition to the North Pole in 2000, he was forced to abandon the journey after suffering frostbite in the fingers of his left hand. When he returned home, he was told it would take several months for surgeons to know whether or not they could save the tips of the fingers or if amputation would be required. Sir Ran grew restless waiting for the final prognosis, so he decided to cut off his fingertips himself. Something he did in his own toolshed using a fretsaw.
That story is one that always stands out, as it is seen as an indication of Fiennes’s determination and willingness to suffer to achieve his goals. Based on the trailer for Explorer it looks like we’ll hear more about that incident directly from the man himself, which should prove to be just one interesting aspect of the film.
Brits who are interested in learning more about Ranulph Fiennes should catch this documentary ASAP. The rest of us will have to wait another month and a half, but I’m looking forward to checking it out once it becomes available internationally.