Explorers Connect

Explorer of the Month: Sam McConnell

CommunityJames Hipkiss

Ever wanted to know how to become an explorer, how to turn your adventurous dreams into reality, or earn a truly enviable nick name? Each month Explorers Connect interviews one of its members to find out what you really need to know - and there's not a pith helmet in sight. This month, it's the mad, bad and ever compelling: SAM McCONNELL.

What are you working on right now?

I'm currently finishing up all the reports after this years two big expeditions in the Sinai and Namibia and getting revved up for next years Namibia expedition, starting with interviewing team leaders. This expedition is based on the peripherals of the Namibia Desert with teams trekking out from a base camp.

How did you become an explorer?

Too many Saturday afternoon matinee films on TV as a kid.

Why do you do it?

To live.

What scares you the most?


What is your greatest moment so far?

There have been a few, but I think it would have to be getting the team out of the Skeleton Coast on the Angolan border last year. It was a very close run thing and we nearly didn't make it.

What's the most dangerous situation you've ever been in?

Near death experiences or NDEs as they are known. There have been loads over the years, but the latest was last year canoeing through central Manchester the day after the riots, kids were dropping breeze blocks off bridges onto boats!!! Inadvertently flying into an African war zone on the Angolan boarder in a light aircraft.

What makes you smile?

A good joke and overweight vegetarians.

What are the biggest obstacles to expedition success?

Mediocrity - Last year after a talk at the Nat Geo store I was asked by one of the audience, what do you want to do that for? I leant forward over the table, looked the guy straight in the eye and replied, because I'm not you! That was the closest I've come to a punch up in a while.

What's the worst injury you've ever had?

A fractured skull which has left me pretty much deaf in my left ear.

What's the greatest thing about succeeding?

Proving people wrong.

What's the meaning of your life?

I'll tell you that when I've worked it out.

How can I do what you do?

Unfailing determination, tenacity and hard work.

What's your nickname?

It used to be Dr Bongo when I lived in Namibia. Being a bit of a taskmaster these days if I do have one I'm not sure if I want to know it.

How do you balance the adventurous life with your home life?

I'm divorced, so I would say badly. Luckily I now have an understanding partner.

What's the one thing you do better than anyone else you know?

Walk in sand in plus 40 degrees of heat with a huge pack on and not drink much water.

What one thing couldn't you live without on expedition?

It used to be cigarettes, but I gave up smoking this year as I thought I should set a good example to the young people on this years Sinai expedition for disadvantaged youngsters.

How can fledgling explorers fund what they do?

Get some kind of a trade outside of the outward bound industry which pays poorly. Tree surgery is a popular one as it involves rope-work, the outdoors and climbing, it pays well and you can pick up work easily.

What is the best advice you've been given in your career?

Be very wary of advice, it normally means someone is trying to sell you something.

Is there anything left to explore?

Always, areas that were explored need to be re-explored to see how they have been affected over time and by climate change.

Why does the modern world need explorers?

Do explorers need the modern world?

If you could only do one more expedition what would it be and why?

To walk off into and disappear in the wilderness like a Bushman at the end of a long life.

What's your life time ambition?

To finish the book I've been writing for years.

How can readers learn more about you?

www.sam-mcconnell-expeditions.com Sam McConnell was interviewed and edited by Frank Coles, a writer and broadcaster with a taste for adventure. You can find out more about him on Explorers Connect or at www.frankcoles.com. "