The Great Explorer: Life on the Edge
Monday, 5 June 2006
2/F Olympic House, So Kong Po, Causeway Bay Drinks 6.30 pm; Lecture 7.30 pm "To me exploration isn't about conquering natural obstacles, planting flags... It's not about going where no one's gone before in order to leave your mark, but about the opposite of that about making yourself vulnerable, opening yourself up to whatever's there and letting the place leave its mark on you." We are delighted and honoured to welcome to Hong Kong the renowned explorer Benedict Allen to speak on his amazing expeditions around the globe. In this lecture, Mr. Allen, as famous now as an author, public speaker, photographer and for his many television series, shares some highlights from an extraordinary life as an adventurer. Benedict Allen, frequently dubbed as "Television's Most Fearless Man", ate his dog aged 23 while lost in the Amazon. By 25, he had undergone a secret and brutal sixweek initiation ceremony in New Guinea to "become a man as strong as a crocodile". In this lecture, he shares these and other adventures, whether being abandoned by guides or being shot at by drug barons in Colombia while attempting a more than seven month crossing of the Amazon Basin at its widest point, or in the Arctic, training a dog team to journey 1,000 miles through Siberia in the worst winter in recorded history. Said to be a "cat who's used up six of his nine lives", Mr. Allen in this lecture, with his usual good humour, conveys the highs and lows of a career spanning 20 years facing "the Abyss" as one of the globe's most renowned adventurers. In Papua New Guinea, Mr. Allen on one of his earlier expeditions, decided to become the first outsider to endure an infamous sixweek male initiation ceremony which would make him a man "as strong as a crocodile" and help him understand how to cope in the rainforest. The secret and sacred ceremony of the Niowra, designed to make boys into men, is the most brutal such initiation ceremony in the world and initiates are beaten everyday and forcefed. He describes what it was like to be given hundreds of permanent "crocodile" scars up and down his chest and back, and be beaten every day for six weeks. During the expedition, he made the first recorded crossing of the Central Mountain Range of New Guinea and making the "first contact" with two remote, threatened communities, the Yaifo and Obini, in the heart of New Guinea. The first person to cross the Amazon Basin alone, he set out to cross the jungle at its widest point, a journey of more than seven months in which he was shot at by drug barons and later found himself abandoned and alone after being robbed by guides. He eventually completed the 3,600 mile crossing journey after time spent learning from the Matses "Jaguar" Indians, struggling out of the forest alone after an extraordinary fight against adversity. In his famous ice dogs expedition, he describes his solo trek in the worst winter in recorded history through Siberia. Mr. Allen describes his 1,000 mile trek with ten dogs through remotest Siberia, hoping to get an insight into how native sledge dogs allow the Chukchi and "Eskimo" Inuit to survive in the tundra, Mr. Allen was soon experiencing temperatures of minus 35 degrees, and blizzards so bad he couldn't reach his dogs for three weeks, by which time their owner had gone and Mr. Allen couldn't find out their names or even commands. Trying to train his wayward dog team, Mr. Allen got frost bite within days. But despite a diet of raw whale and walrus, and despite snowdrifts and ferocious winds, when Mr. Allen reached his target, the Bering Strait, three months later, he had somehow earned the status of "Top Dog" from his ten furry expedition colleagues. In another expedition, he became the first person permitted to walk the 1,000 mile Namib Desert in Namibia, something he did along with three camels including one heroic beast named Nelson. He also filmed and presented the first major television series on shamans, witchdoctors and other healers around the world the eightpart "Last of the Medicine Men". He also made a five and half month trek by horse and camel from the forests of Siberia, across the open plains of the Mongolian steppe and on to a 1,000 mile lone crossing of the Gobi Desert. Mr. Allen lives in London and when not on expeditions is well known as an author, television presenter, filmmaker and public speaker. On his arduous expeditions, he is best known for travelling with no support, phones or GPS, by immersing himself alone in indigenous communities, his faith in awareness and knowledge of the local environment through learning indigenous skills, and also the secrets of his trusty "survival kit". These journeys are depicted in his nine books and five major television series. Mr. Allen pioneered the filming of modern expeditions for television and in an award was cited as being "part of the history of television". By not using a filmcrew, he has allowed millions of people around the world to witness for the first time adventures unfolding genuinely in inhospitable terrain often in very real and constant jeopardy and his lecture is richly illustrated by photographs of these many expeditions. Members and their guests are most welcome to attend this lecture, which is HK$50 for Members, HK$100 for Members' guests and HK$150 for others.