Dr. Geoff Wilson is an entrepreneur, adventurer, philanthropist, and three-time record holder. During his record-breaking adventure for longest solo and unsupported human crossing of Antarctica, Geoff relied on the Iridium Certus® service using the Thales MissionLINK™ from Iridium service provider Pivotel to stay connected.
Iridium: Can you tell us more about what inspired you to become an adventurer and three-time record holder?
Dr. Geoff Wilson: I’m not sure I ever set out to chase records per se, or to become an explorer or adventurer. It just simply happened that I set myself some tough journeys and difficult goals, and the by-product of completion was a slow morphing into the adventurer that I am today. I think if you just chased records, you’d get disillusioned or dead quite quickly. It must be for the love of the environment, the love of life and the love of adventure or it’s not sustainable as a lifestyle.
You’ve persevered through near death escapes, grand desert journeys and noble Antarctic expeditions. How do you choose which adventures to embark on?
A common theme has always been “green powered” (i.e., man powered, or wind powered). I generally look for a route or track that has never been completed and find the most genuine and complete crossing, unique goal, or challenge. My journeys have progressively got more brutal and difficult as I improve my endurance and resilience, so much so that now I can genuinely say that I am exploring the very limits of what a human body and tethered mind is capable of at the very edge of human endurance.
Can you tell us more about the philanthropic efforts attached to your expeditions?
I have never done an adventure that has not been linked to a worthwhile charity. The reason for this is that I know if I stand for something I believe in wholeheartedly – be it freeing young girls from sex slavery in Southeast Asia, or providing funds for breast care nurses in rural Australia – when the chips are down and I feel like giving up, they provide rocket fuel to the endeavour. When crossing the Sahara Desert by Kite Power in 2009, I carried photos of three girls freed from slavery by the She Home, our charity of choice for the expedition. With those three small faces looking up at me, it was impossible to quit despite the hardest of times. Those girls kept me on track and allowed me to press on well past what was humanly possible without their encouragement.
You recently finished The Longest Journey. How does it feel to have successfully completed the longest solo unsupported human crossing of Antarctica?
It feels amazing, to have pushed for seven years to build a possible route, to have summited Dome Argus and make it home safely…it’s an amazing feeling, but I am glad I never have to do it again!
What was it like to be alone in such a vast landscape?
Antarctica is a spiritual place. Nowhere on earth has the vast openness, the incredible bone eating cold and the terrifying mood swings of the place. You cannot help but be affected by her. You leave a different person.
What were some of the mental and physical challenges you faced kiting across the uncharted ‘Pole of Inaccessibility’ alone?
The isolation, the difficulty of rescue ate at my mindset continually. I remember being more emotional on this journey than any other, possibly due to those two extremes. But also, I think I was better in touch with myself and with Sarah, my key advisor. She did a great job in piecing me back together through my vulnerable stages and giving me the self-belief to continue on.
Can you further explain the pivotal role Iridium partner Pivotel played in supporting you?
Communication is key. Hearing the human voice is such a strength giver. In previous expeditions, I have only had voice communication. On this journey, through Iridium’s incredible Iridium Certus tech, I was able to see the human face for the first time in the field. This allowed me to feel connected despite the extreme isolation and distance between us. Iridium’s link was absolutely vital to the journey’s eventual success.
Although you crossed Antarctica alone, you shared your experience throughout on social media, and even Skyped from the South Pole. How did staying connected influence your journey?
The Iridium Certus technology allowed a satellite link of unprecedented bandwidth for a solo polar journey. Through this I was able to Skype, Videolink and export images and film to the wide world. This made a huge difference to the following of the journey and I hope led to more funds for the charity than would have been donated had the general public not “felt” the hardship so intently due to the images and film coming out via the Iridium Certus portal.
What was the highlight of your expedition?
Absolutely the arrival at 4 am in early January 2020 at the Novolarevskaya base on the edge of the continent. This ended a period of extreme stress over the prior three days with wild winds, crevasses, and a threatening incoming cyclonic storm front. To realise I had made it, covered 5,306 km safely, and completed all the expedition goals including the longest solo polar journey in human history was incredible.
Do you plan to go on another expedition in the future?
I am already working on another journey now. All I can say is that it’ll be cold, it’ll require human endurance once again and there will be polar bears. I can also say that I won’t venture from home without Pivotel and Iridium’s tech and support. They are my number one piece of gear in the kit bag already!
What haven’t we asked that you’d like readers to know?
Please remember in the tough times with Covid-19 and all the other global challenges, each one of you are perfectly and wonderfully made, you have more in you than you believe by far. Stretch and go prove yourself right.