When Paul Rose was introduced at the Turner Sims he was described as a professional diver, expert climber, well known TV presenter, co-author of the book Oceans which accompanied the TV series, Base Commander in Antarctica for ten years (achieving the Queens Polar Medal and the US equivalent), polar explorer, Vice President of the Royal Geographic Society, experienced expedition leader and a man who learnt to become a dentist in just ten days. A long and impressive list but it felt somewhat out of place with the Paul who stood before us, dressed in a black blazer and shirt with camel coloured chinos. In fact the only thing that made him look remotely different from a member in the audience was the microphone attached to his blazer. But when he spoke you soon realised that, as normal as his dress sense was, his life was far from ordinary.
The talk was called Explore and was about Paul’s life experiences so far in the great wildernesses of the world and to promote the new BBC Two program he co-presented, although the name has yet to be decided.
His life started off in an ordinary way. He grew up in Essex, failed the eleven plus because he wasn’t particularly interested in school, but a geography trip to the Brecon Beacons changed all that. He realised that he excelled at survival and dealing with the great outdoors. After leaving his first job in a Ford factory he saved up and trained to be a scuba diver, something he had always wanted to do growing up in an age where sea exploration was glamorous and spearheaded by the great Jacques Cousteau. From that point on his career took off, enabling him to live the stories he tells today.
The series shows him finally laying to rest one of his heroes, Frank Wild, who is the most decorated polar explorer and who led Shackleton’s team back from Antarctica after Shackleton died, saving the lives of his remaining team members. Wild was cremated but they lost his ashes in South Africa during the World Wars and this is the story of them finding them and granting his final wish of being buried next to Shackleton in Antarctica.
They say never meet your heroes in life, but then again how many modern day heroes are explorers and filled a root canal whilst trying to copy a diagram of it in a DIY Dentist book held by the patient just below their own mouth?