Sunday, January 08, 2006

Two Adventurers

Norman Vaughan was the last surviving member of Byrd's 1928-30 Antartctic expedition. A lifelong teetotaller, Vaughan first drank champagne on his 100th birthday. He died six days later. Whether these facts are connected I do not know.

What a life.

"By this stage Vaughan had fallen out with a fellow dog-driver, Arthur Walden, who felt that the young man had usurped his position on the expedition; so sure was Vaughan that Walden would do him harm that he took to sleeping in secret locations outside, despite the freezing temperatures."

"In the summer of 1942 two B-17 bombers and six P-38 Lightning fighters made emergency landings on the Greenland Ice Cap, having received a false compass heading from a German U-boat and having run out of fuel. The crews were supplied by air-drop until Vaughan and others were able to bring them out by dog-sledge.

He was later sent back to retrieve a top-secret bombsight, which could have fallen into the hands of the Germans, who maintained a wartime weather station on the east coast of Greenland."

"The following summer, Vaughan returned to the Heritage range to be flown into the Queen Maud mountains where, supported by a party of nine, he reached the summit of "his" mountain, Mount Vaughan (10,320 ft high) on December 14 1994, two days before his 89th birthday.

On six occasions after he reached the age of 70, Vaughan completed the 1,100-mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race; and when he was 96 he carried the Olympic torch in Juneau, passing the flame from a wheelchair."

And Heinrich Harrer has died aged 93. A famous pre-war Alpinist and Olympic skier, he was climbing in the Himalayas when WWII broke out. His escape from a British internment camp and trek to Lhasa, where he remained as the Dalai Lama's tutor until the Chinese invasion, is the subject of his wonderful book 'Seven Years In Tibet'. Unlike modern trekkers, Harrer was penniless and a wanted man. He arrived in Lhasa ragged, exhausted but indomitable, speaking Tibetan with a rustic accent which greatly amused the Lhasa nobility who took him in.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Norman Vaughan? I remember him from many Royal Variety Performances and those "Roses grow on you" chocolate adverts in the days of black and white telly.

Never knew he was a famous explorer though.