Wednesday, 20 April 2011

What I'm Watching - Top Dogs, Adventures in War, Sea and Ice

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This was a three part mini docu series I caught on the Eden channel featuring three iconic adventurers


newsman John Simpson,


polar explorer Ranulph Fiennes,


solo yachtsman Robin Knox-Johnston

I think it was originally available on BBC so may be available on the BBC I Player if you want to view it there.

Sorry, couldn't get an embed so please click the link to view an extract from the series.

John Simpson's frostbite

Anyway, veteran reporter Simpson, round the world yachtsman Johnston and artic explorer Fiennes embarked on three trips to their " comfort zone " taking the other two veterans with them.

Part one was centred with Simpson making a visit to the Tora Bora region of Afghanistan, part two went round Cape horn in a yacht with Johnston and part three involved a four day man hauling trek in Arctic Canada with Fiennes.

To write a full report on the documentaries would be too complicated but suffice to say I was able to see what these guys had to endure to become what they are, which is no doubt as the series title implies " Top Dogs " in their chosen fields of expertise.

In each episode it was interesting to see how at least one of the party was more than a bit out of his element and actually despite a modicum of " True Grit " fearful of the situation they had been put into.

Afghanistan was Simpson's area of expertise having impartially reported on events in the Tora Bora for years and while Fiennes coped well, no doubt due to his military Special Forces background, Johnston was less than comfortable at the fact that in order to travel there, the party had to leave their camera van and travel in heavily armed military vehicles with the chance of attack at any time.

Cape Horn was Johnston's element and while remarkably Simpson coped well rounding the Horn in not quite roaring 40's but sea's which would have brought a tear to many a man's eye, Fiennes was incapacitated with sea sickness. It was interesting to see how they cured a skinned lamb at the back of the boat in the Southern oceans salt spray before barbecuing it for dinner. I was amazed to learn Johnston had circumnavigated the globe in a yacht aged only 30 and donated his prize money for winning the Sunday Times Golden Globe Race to the family of Donald Crowhurst who commited suicide during his failed attempt. Only ten people entered this race and of three who looked likely to complete it, Crowhurst being one, after 7 yachtsmen dropped out, Johnston was the worthy victor.

The Arctic leg of the documentaries was led by Fiennes, a renowned arctic explorer but yet again one of the " Dogs " was out of his comfort zone. This time however, it was Simpson having contracted mild frostbite in his fingers. Johnston, despite being almost seventy and seeing no point in manhauling pult's across the frozen wastes managed to complete the challenge.

I was thoroughly fascinated by each of these documentaries and would highly recommend them for watching even though they were 1st aired in 2009 if you can still get access to them.

I believe despite being shown from time to time on Sky, they are available to buy on DVD.

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