Foreign legionnaire, raconteur, taipan, private equity investor, and now polar explorer. Simon Murray, the former taipan of Hutch and current owner of private equity firm, GEMS has always had a taste for adventure. Indeed, a film was recently made about his time in the French foreign legion.
Now the Briton is about to trade the heat of the desert for temperatures of -49 degrees celcius as he walks to the South Pole with explorer Pen Hadow in an unsupported walk. Both men will walk 850 miles, all uphill, to approximately 10,000 feet, and will do so without dogs, para-foil, or mechanical assistance.
The journey will begin on the Antarctic coast and will take 65 days to complete. It will involve carrying 240lbs of food, cooking oil and other gear.
If successful Murray will be the oldest man by a decade to walk to the pole. When asked the genesis of the idea he laughs that his wife is to blame. His wife, Jennifer, some readers will know has already flown around the world solo (east-west) in a helicopter, and wants to go round the world (north-south), a feat which has never been accomplished in a helicopter.
She thought her husband would help fund this if she could get him involved, perhaps dropping him in the Antarctic to walk 50 miles to the pole. Accordingly she invited well known explorer, Pen Hadow to their house and suggested he and Murray do the trip. After a week, Murray decided with Hadow that they would do an unsupported walk, all the way from the coast.
"When I was a boy, all of our heros were explorers," says Murray. "I think it's important to get out and do the things we dream of. We don't all have to sit in an armchair and play golf at 64."
Indeed, Murray likes to prove people wrong. A couple of years ago he ran a marathon in the Sahara desert just to prove he still could.
He and Hadow have already done some arctic preparation. (See pictures below)
Murray's adventure from the cold hell of Hercules Inlet to the pole will also hopefully raise money for a decent cause. In keeping with the mission, Murray is hoping to raise funds for the Royal Geographical Society. The latter is looking to raise funds to digitize its archive so the public will be able to see it for the first time on the internet. It also wants to create proper conservation storage for its rare collection, as well as build an exhibition pavilion on London's Exhibition Road, near Harrods and the Victoria and Albert Museum to show its collection.
The collection includes a million maps (the largest in the world, and which includes Ptolemy's maps), John Hunt's diaries of the first ascent of Everest, 500,000 photographs dating from the earliest days of photography, about half a million books and a quarter of a mile of original manuscripts, including the diaries and letters of the world's great explorers. It also includes a hand-drawn map by David Livingstone when he first saw Victoria Falls.
Monies raised through Murray's trip will be specifically to fund the opening up of thr RGS's polar archives and digitise them.
Murray has already donated $25,000 to the project and has underwritten the cost of the expedition. However, he is keen that the RGS should raise as much as possible, and so if any wants to donate, 70% will go to the RGS and the remainder towards defraying the cost of the expedition. For those who want to donate or get further information, they can contact Angela Wong on (852) 25011333 or [email protected]