Wednesday, 3 September 2014

The expedition/RockPod advice conundrum

So, I got an email out of the blue the other day from someone I don’t know, and for whom a quick Google search revealed no information. It simply asked:

“whats the status of your rockpod? Is it available for loan/hire/sale for another Rockall occupation attempt.?”[sic]

This posed a deeper question that I thought was perhaps worth a blog:

I have obviously considered the fact that someone may come along at some point and attempt to break the forty five day solo occupation record I recently set on Rockall, and it was for this reason that I had originally planned on being there for sixty days, in the hope that this would be a sufficient amount of time to put off any usurpers for at least the twenty nine years Tom McClean waited for me to turn up. In actual fact, if whoever does attempt this challenge enjoys the planning, research and experience as much as I did, then I’m looking forward to following them when they do take Rockall on, and I’ll wish them well. However, as I know from experience, sitting on a rock in the middle of nowhere is not as simple a challenge as it seems.

It now appears that my record might be challenged sooner than I expected, but my own experience tells me that this task is a greater one than it appears to the layman: I originally thought I’d be on the rock with the record broken in under two years from conception; it actually took me five years of work to break the twenty nine year old solo record.

My initial response, in order to give me some thinking time, was “Probably not immediately, but when were you thinking of going?”

This was an intriguing request, and demanded some thought and perhaps the input of others, so I turned to the internet and sought the views of my Twitter and Facebook followers, a sample of whom responded thus:

“No ... tell them to do one!"

“No way. He needs to start from scratch if he wants to attempt it..

“It's a record worth going for BECAUSE it's tough, not because someone gives you half your preparation as a freebie. Help the chap make a worthwhile attempt by giving him encouragement and information, if you feel like it, but he needs to source the rest himself.”

“If they are genuine and responsible then be magnanimous, to a point. Don't start a craze else you might be criticised [sic] for encourage an inappropriate rush for the rock!!

“Yes, unless you're going to do it again yourself of course. Someone will eventually beat it, why not be part of the attempt? All the best sportsmen go on to train the next generation.”

“I'd give a Hell No to the idea of taking the RockPod but limited advice could be good. If only so they don't kill themselves!”

“you did it all on your own nick start to finish if you are to be beaten it should be in the same way [sic] I think friendly advice is one thing but telling them so much that you're doing some of the work for them is another...”

I think these are all valid points and they represent a reasonably diverse range of attitudes, that any information provided should be balanced with the advice that it is only by doing your own research that you can truly understand the enormity of any challenge and what is required to complete it safely and successfully.

After my initial response, more detail followed, with a brief outline of an idea for an expedition and the suggestion of a start to some research. The outline suggested a different format, with ongoing support to remain on Rockall for as long as possible, making this embryonic expedition a very different prospect for the purist, in the same way that I always wanted to start my expedition by landing by boat, rather than by helicopter (cost aside), as Tom McClean had done. For me, I couldn’t claim Tom’s record if I hadn’t landed the same way. By having on going support, and I may be being picky here, its not the same challenge.

Anyway, after that thought, someone made me think about the potential legal liability I might be opening myself up to by loaning or selling the RockPod on. I don’t know if I would be, but you can imagine someone out there suing you for providing their family member with a used ‘survival’ pod that didn’t help them survive: a potential minefield! The RockPod was hit by big weather that I expected to experience and designed for, but at the time I wasn’t sure if it would withstand any more weather like or worse than I had experienced, and I don’t know what, if any, structural damage was caused that can’t be seen.

My final response is below, and hopefully it satisfies both my wish to help others have a go, but also my insistence that whoever does eventually beat the record I’ve set does it the ‘right’ way, which in my mind is the safest and perhaps purest way. It was only by doing the research, brain storming, meeting and speaking to the right people, reconnaissance, testing, repeat testing, adaptation of design, failure, and more testing and research over a period of five years (not the original one and a half I thought it would take me) that I was successful.

“I've had a think about your requests, and hope that my record will be challenged one day, as it should be.

“Regarding loan/sale of the RockPod, I'll have to say no for a number of reasons which include, but are not limited to, its sentimental value to me and my family, the fact that it may have been structurally damaged during the storm I experienced, and that although I was happy to put my own life in the hands of my self-designed shelter, I wouldn't be happy to allow anyone else, however experienced, to trust my design and construction skills. That's all aside from the fact that for me a large part of the enjoyment of the expedition was designing and constructing the RockPod, which I hope you will enjoy too; knowing the detail of how your shelter is put together will give you some reassurance when times get tough.

Regarding the provision of information and advice, I suspect that many of the answers you'll need will either become obvious as you progress your planning, or readily available on the internet, but if not do ask.

I wish you well in the planning and development of your shelter, and look forward to following your progress. If you have any specific questions, I'd be more than happy to look at them.

Good luck!”

I don’t know if this is the ‘right’, ‘correct’ or ‘best’ answer, but it’s the best I can offer, and hopefully it’ll generate some debate on actually how much help or advice you should give someone hoping to attempt a dangerous challenge that you have completed, without knowing who they are nor what experience they have. As one follower summed up:
Once upon a time when I was climbing a big hill in the alps - someone asked our advice on the appropriate route up. The most experienced in our party was polite but firm and provided what I thought was an unreasonably small amount of info. I committed to memory this lesson; not to give strangers a false sense of safety or security. If they don't know, should you tell them?
As Shackleton once said, "A short cut is often the longest way around."

No comments:

Post a comment