Q&A with Sir David Hempleman-Adams

Q&A With WWW Founder, Sir David Hempleman-Adams

Born in Swindon, Wiltshire in 1956 Sir David Hempleman-Adams is a polar explorer and writer, known for his remarkable achievements such as completing the Adventurers Grand Slam, whereby he was the first person to reach the North Pole, South Pole and climb the highest peak of each of the seven continents. In addition to the Polar Ocean Challenge, where he led the first British yacht to sail around the Arctic Ocean (anticlockwise) in one summer season. In 2009, he established Wicked Weather Watch, an organization aimed at educating primary school students about climate change, empowering them to take action and make a positive impact on the environment.

In this series, we will be catching up with 3 key members of Wicked Weather Watch, asking questions about their Arctic explorations, career and their role within the organisation. Starting with the founder, Sir David Hempleman-Adams.

What inspired you to become an adventurer?

I started the Duke of Edinburgh’s award at school at 13. We were taken to the Black mountains in South Wales. The first day on the mountains, seeing the mist and the views, I loved every minute, and the rest as they say is history. 

How do you find the motivation to push through and persevere under such harsh circumstances in your explorations?

I am always wary, no one is forcing me to do this. This is my choice, so don’t moan, as you have chosen to do it. Sometimes the first few days are hard, but I always think, take small tiny steps. If you can survive 3 days, you are normally into a routine, and then it’s easier psychologically and physically. 

Do you have your own talisman, amulet, or ritual that helps you achieve your goals/ protects you while traveling?

Sometimes I think someone is looking over me on some trips, keeping me safe. When I am in great danger, I sometimes look upwards and ask my mother for help!  I also wear some good luck beads around my neck. I received these from a Tibetan monk. I would never do a trip without these. I am very superstitious. 

The only trip I have failed on was flying over Mount Everest. I was ready to fly over from Tibet into Nepal. When we were at base camp, 9/11 happened. The Chinese closed the border and said we had one day to get out of the country. The terrorist attack changed the world forever, but it was such bad Karma, I never wanted to go back and try the flight again.

In what ways have you had to adapt your expeditions due to climate change? 

When I first went to the Alps as a young boy at 17, we walked up Glaciers, those same glaciers are no longer there. Also, you have to be more careful when you climb. Now you must wait until the very early morning, i.e 2am, so the rock is still frozen, otherwise, when the sun comes up you get an avalanche of stonewall on you. With regards to the Polar regions, you can’t ski to the North pole as I did in 1997/98. There is too much thin ice and water, so you have to adapt your travels. With regards to sailing, I think the weather patterns have changed, so you must be very wary of strong storms coming in and they are certainly more frequent. Ballooning is very dependent on weathers you can get long stretches when you can’t fly, or long spells of hot weather which causes thermals, so again, this has changed in the last 20 years. 

What inspired you to start Wicked Weather Watch, how has it evolved since its inception and how do you see it developing in the future?

It was started by a simple question from one of my daughters, who was asked in a geography lesson, what’s the difference between ‘Climate change’ and ‘Global warming’. When I looked on the internet, there was a lot of information, but a lot of it was political. I wanted young people to be able to read basic facts, and make their own minds up about our changing world, without being campaigning or political.

Can you tell us about a specific moment or experience that you’ve had while working with Wicked Weather Watch that stands out to you?

I am always enthused by people giving up their free time to give to the charity. I always believe, what comes around, goes around. I firmly believe I have been extremely lucky in my life, people helping, advising, mentoring me, so it’s nice to try and give something back. I’m always humbled by friends giving up their valuable time to help. So, when the charity gets a thank-you letter from a child, parent or school, it makes it all worthwhile.

Written by Climate Change Communicator, Catrin Lewis.