Polar exploration has always looked like fun. As a boy, photos of grizzled men, beards and eyelids encrusted with ice, left me in no doubt what I wanted to be when I grew up.

A modern day Ernest Shackleton.

A year or two away on a boat with the chaps; befriending penguins, eating seals, a daring raid on the South Pole and then home to a victory parade and a life on the after-dinner circuit.

“That’s the life for me,” I thought.

To be clear, as a boy, I wasn’t hugely familiar with the after dinner circuit and the living to be made therein, but I sensed that once you achieve the near impossible the world is your oyster.

I may not have known how, but I knew that fortunes could be made.

It was only after I’d read a few books and gathered some life experience that I began to grasp that polar exploration was fairly difficult. Hunger, cold, privation, isolation, psychological torment; conditions at the end of the world are enough to break the toughest of cookies.

I decided the chance to befriend penguins might not be a good enough reason to embark on such a hazardous life.

Also, the more I read, the more I realised that it’s not just beards and eyelids – the glamorous and photogenic bits – that become encrusted with ice. Also ripe for encrustation are: fingers, toes, lips, nipples, groins(!).

The fact that you do not get pictures of ice encrusted groins in polar exploration books suggests that they’re not a pretty sight.

I abandoned my plans and settled in for a cosy desk-based life. My fortune yet to be made. My groin untainted by ice and snow.

So, swings and roundabouts I guess.


(Image: By Henry Bowers (1883–1912) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)


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