Sir Ranulph Fiennes, or Ran as he prefers, admitting that he hates the Sir which he inherited from his father, or, to use his full name, Sir Ranulph Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes, is the straight-talking British explorer.
Ran is a legend and not just for the finger incident, which we’ll get to. It was a young Ran’s ambition to simply follow in his esteemed father’s footsteps and command the Royal Scots Greys.
He did manage at least to serve in the Royal Scots Greys, but was a little bored with his time in Germany and was delighted to be seconded to the SAS where he discovered a hitherto unknown expertise in explosives. However, it would be this that would also be his downfall.
He received a phone call from a friend informing him that a film studio had built an ugly dam in Castle Combe, Wiltshire and together they hatched a plan to ensure it went away and Castle Combe could remain the ‘prettiest village in England’.
Unfortunately, the pair were caught, thus ensuring Ran would never be able to completely follow in his father’s footsteps. They allowed him to remain in the army, sending him back to his troop in Germany. When he got bored again he learnt that he could volunteer to go to Oman, so did.
Ran met his wife, Ginny, when the pair were young and were in love almost immediately. It was Ginny who arranged most, if not all, of Ran’s expeditions, such as heading up the Nile on a Hovercraft and the epic Transglobe Expedition.
The Transglobe Expedition saw Ran, and others, circumvent the globe on its polar axis. It was some 11 years in the making and took three years to complete using only surface transport the entire way. To put it into perspective, they had no money at the start, no equipment and nobody has ever done the same route since, or had done it before.
Fiennes has attempted and completed, quite often with his trusty companion Mike Stroud, a whole host of expeditions; finding the lost city of Iram in Oman, crossing the Antarctic continent unsupported – twice, walking solo and unsupported to the North Pole, which was abandoned when his sled fell into the water.
It was during this expedition, whilst retrieving his sled from the water, that he suffered severe frostbite to the fingertips of his left hand, we see plenty of photos and video of what they look – not for the squeamish. Anyway, he was in severe pain, as you may expect, but the surgery to remove his fingertips wasn’t for months.
His wife Ginny told him he looked unhappy, so Ran went to his shed and removed the tips of his fingers himself, with a saw. He describes this during the documentary as matter of fact as he discusses everything else. Even when he tells us the thumb took a day to cut through, it’s like he’s telling us his age.
On and on Ran’s achievements ramp up, including, just after having had a massive heart attack and a double coronary artery bypass operation, running seven marathons in seven days on seven continents. His surgeon said he could undertake the marathons providing his heart rate stayed below a certain rate. This would have been fine, only Ran forgot to bring the heart-rate monitor so has no idea if he did or not.
Throughout Explorer director Matthew Dyas shows us home movie footage and photos from Ran’s life, whilst Ran is happy to talk about most things, he struggles when it comes to Ginny, who sadly passed away from cancer.
The documentary is very well put together with stunning shots and home-video from Ran’s expeditions coupled with moments of comedy, particularly when we see how bad Ran is at driving and how little he cares for his car.
Sometimes dubbed the world’s greatest explorer, once you’ve seen Explorer it’s hard to argue. Just imagine if he’d actually got the job as James Bond…