I have of course slated charity expeditions in the past, most notably is of course Bear Grylls when he broke every rule in the book when it comes to an expedition in Antartica and then of course his collar bone. The resultant insurance bill cost the BMC aorund £200000 in lost profits from their insurance scheme. More notably his planned £1 Million fundraiser, that amounted to a little over £20000 most of which was donated by the sponsors a venture capitalist company. I guess the venture wasn’t that good for them.
The reason that I am bringing this up now is the news that Ranulph Fiennes is embarking on a ‘charity’ expedition to cross the south pole in winter. When I first heard this I was suitably impressed, however I then learnt he was taking a bulldozer, and towing two houses and several fuel sleds. So in essence he is going on an elaborate caravaning holiday with a large team of people. I might suggest the most useful person on the team will be the mechanic.
Even driving to a pole is not new, Top Gear did it years ago, across a frozen sea in a pick up truck. So if two celebs can drive to the north pole, how hard will it be for the great ranulph fiennes to make it across the south pole. Remember though, Scott took a tracked vehicle to the south pole over 100 years ago and look at the good it did him and his team. They were not only beaten to the pole by Amundsen, who hadn’t set off till after Scott’s team arrived in Antartic but he also made it back safely.
So whilst on the one hand I see this expedition as an ultimate folly, I am interested to find out who is financially backing his expedition. In total there are 12 partners organisation, with some big names, who I won’t mention. But one is a big parmacutical, another a software company plus a one I’ll mention later. But it doesn’t end there in total there are over another 180 sponsors, Its no wonder he needs to tow two houses, as how else is he going to fit all those logos on.
In contrast to this farce, Leo Houlding has small expedition down their to climb a very very remote big wall. His sponsors logos can probably fit on one side of one of the tents he is in as I type. Although he is their in the summer, none the less I respect his efforts more than Fiennes’. Leo hasn’t dressed his exped up as a charity event, as he is under no illusion. He is down there because he wants to be there, it is billed as the Last Great Climb, one that he showed me the pictures of some 15 years ago. A dream he has had and built towards ever since. Whereas if you believe Andy Kirkpatrick it was just a crazy idea he shared with someone as a joke.
So is ranulph kidding himself by dressing up his extreme sunday drive as a charity expedition. He aims to raise $10 million for Seeing is Believing. Although even that seems to vary when you visit the donation site it says only $5 million. So far they have raised nearly $12000, with a few big donations, which if you take the name add the main backers name (Standard Charter) to a google search, then you find they are big names in this company.
If you don’t know anything about standard charter then I bring to your attention the article that one of those big givers name brings up in Google. Which is from the Mail Online (I do apologise for linking to the Mail) that highlights how Standard Charter shares plummeted 16% ($6 billion loss) when claims were made that the bank, Standard Charter was laundering money for Iran and Hezbollah.
My point with these type of expeditions, are that if you want to raise money for charity, then donate it to the charity. I suspect the expedition will cost somewhere in the region of $1 million, given all the equipment they are taking by boat to the area. Better still you could do what american climber Timmy O’Neil has be doing recently and actually helping out at a eye clinic in a developing country and giving poor people back their sight. Or like a friends son, actually going to Congo Republic and help set up pop up clinics in a war zone.
I hope Fiennes does raise at least $5 million, i suspect they won’t raise enough to effectively cover the actual cost of the expedition and instead Standard Charter are using him to develop some better PR than funding terrorist by involving a former great explorer. Now I don’t want to sound agist but Ranulph is 68 years old and I cannot help feeling that this is a great man trying to hang onto the former great days. I guess I can but hope I grow old that disgracefully. The expedition does require two skiers to scan the ground ahead with radar for crevasses, I am woindering just how many stints he’ll do. Or whether he is just their to be a great british face when they turn on the satelite uplink and give us daily reports as to how fast there caravan is travelling. Allowing us to be grateful of at least one thing, that he took the caravan to Antartica and didn’t clog up our roads.
I guess there is no real conclusion as I have just pulled off a rather random rant. Although I would like people to admite that if you are going on expedition be honest, you aren’t doing it to raise money for charity you are doing it because you want to and there is no harm in being a little selfish from time to time. If you are going to raise money for Charity do something that you don’t want to do, run a marathon, eat spiders or take a bath a baked beans. Don’t spend hundreds of thousands of pounds to polish your ego and then raise less than you spent in an attempt to make you and your sponsors feel good about it. Maybe that should be the criteria for a charity expedition, you can only call it a charity expedition if you spend less on the expedition than you are likely to raise online.