Saturday, 17 September 2016

Modern day explorer?

In a recent podcast, Brady Haran of the fantastic 'Hello Internet', described an 'Explorer' as someone who, "travelled to a place, with no external help, and with little idea about what would be there when they arrived". This reminded me of the scariest thing that ever happened to me.

In the summer of 2001, I found myself in a really flexible job, and a great pal of mine had somehow gained access to a luxury speedboat. We took to taking trips down to Southampton on still and bright days, and spent them: on the water, roaming the streets of Cowes and exploring the coastline. One particularly hot day while anchored just off the Isle of Wight, we decided to take a swim in the sea. There was a buoy on the horizon which seamed to be a good target. After an idle swim for maybe half-an-hour we realise the buoy was not getting any bigger. My buddy was a better swimmer than me, but neither of us could be described as anything other than mediocre. After another ten minuets or more of focused swimming, we realise that it's just not getting any bigger at all, and decide to turn back.
It's at this point, with horror, we discover our great mistake. For the past forty minuets we'd been swimming, what turned out to be, out to sea - with the tide! We could no longer see the boat, but more worryingly than that, we couldn't even see the island or mainland. We were lost, lost at sea!

What could we do but pick a direction and start a swim back? Swimming towards nothing, with no real sense of direction, I can quite honestly say was the scariest moment of my life. It wasn't long, swimming against the tide, before I started to tire and my buddy had to keep hanging back, else we'd get separated. After a frantic swim for what seamed like way more than 3/4 hour, with no sight of land, I'm sure we stopped to discuss options, but don't ask me what we talked about, or even decided for that matter. Pressing on and after who knows how long, we finally caught sight of the island. Shortly after, I was more relieved than you know to find the boat.

Exhausted, freezing cold (for a hot sunny day), and hungry, I remember being so happy to just lay still on the foredeck of the boat. After recovering we drove towards the buoy. It turned out to in fact be an oil rig moored off shore. (The time comes to mind when Father Ted tried to explain the difference between 'small' and 'far away' to Dougal.)

So, does this count as being a true adventurer, or just a tad foolish? Perhaps it's both?

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