Sir Ranulph Twisleton-Wickham-Fiennes, 3rd Baronet,
OBE (usually simply Ranulph Fiennes, born March 7, 1944) is a British
explorer and holder of several endurance records. He was the first
man to visit both the North and South Poles.
Fiennes was born in England shortly after the death of his father,
Lieutenant Sir Ranulph Twisleton-Wykham-Fiennes, 2nd Baronet, who
was killed in action in World War II. On his birth Fiennes automatically
inherited the Baronetcy, becoming the 3rd Baronet. After the war
his mother moved the family to South Africa where he remained until
he was twelve. Ranulph then returned to be educated at Eton, after
which he joined the British Army.
Ranulph Fiennes married his childhood sweetheart Virginia Pepper
("Ginny") in 1970; the two remained married until her
death in February 2004.
He is the third cousin of Hollywood film actors Joseph and Ralph
Fiennes, and is a distant cousin of Britain's royal family. Ranulph
Fiennes was on the shortlist of those considered to replace Sean
Connery in the role of James Bond (despite Fiennes having little
acting experience). Fiennes was summarily rejected on meeting Bond
producer Cubby Broccoli, who said he had "a face like a farmer's".
Ranulph Fiennes owns and operates a sheep and cattle farm on Exmoor.
Fiennes served eight years in the British army, first with his father's
regiment the Royal Scots Greys and later on secondment to the Special
Air Service, where he specialised in demolitions.
Offended by the construction of a concrete dam built for a film
production of Doctor Dolittle at Castle Coombe, Wiltshire, Fiennes
and an SAS comrade demolished the dam (using explosives Fiennes
had obtained for authorised demolitions, but which by dint of efficiency
he had been able to save). Both fled, and Fiennes (who had recently
completed a training course on evading dogs) escaped capture - but
his comrade did not, and both were subsequently discharged from
the SAS and returned to their regiments.
Following his service in the British Army, Ran Fiennes served in
the private army of the Sultan of Oman.
Since the 1960s Fiennes has been an explorer. He led expeditions
up the White Nile on a hovercraft in 1969 and on Norway's Jostedalsbre
Glacier in 1970. Perhaps his most famous trek was the Transglobe
Expedition that he undertook from 1979 until 1982. Fiennes and Charles
Burton journeyed around the world on its polar axis using surface
transport only, covering 52,000 miles and becoming the first people
to have visited both poles.
In 1992 Fiennes lead an expedition that discovered the lost city
of Ubar in Oman. The following year he joined with nutrition specialist
Mike Stroud to become the first to cross Antarctica unaided. Their
journey of 97 days is the longest in south Polar history.
In 2000 he attempted to walk solo and unsupported to the north pole.
The expedition failed when his sleds fell through weak ice and Fiennes
was forced to pull them out by hand. He sustained severe frostbite
to the tips of several fingers, forcing him to abandon the attempt.
On returning home, his surgeon insisted the necrotic fingertips
be retained for several months (to allow regrowth of the remaining
healthy tissue) prior to amputation. Impatient at the pain the dying
fingertips caused, Fiennes removed them himself (in his garden shed)
with an electric saw.
Despite suffering from a heart attack and undergoing a double heart
by-pass operation just four months previously, Fiennes joined up
with Stroud again in 2003 to carry out the extraordinary feat of
completing seven marathons in seven days on seven continents. Their
26th October - Race 1: Patagonia, South America
27th October - Race 2: Falkland Islands, "Antarctica"
28th October - Race 3: Sydney, Australasia
29th October - Race 4: Singapore, Asia
31st October - Race 5: London, Europe
31st October - Race 6: Cairo, Africa
1st November - Race 7: New York, North America
Originally Fiennes had planned to run the first marathon on King
George Island, Antartica. The second marathon would then have taken
place in Santiago, Chile. However bad weather and aeroplane engine
trouble caused him to change his plans, running the South American
segment in southern Patagonia first and then hopping to the Falklands
as a substitute for the Antarctic leg.
Speaking after the event, Fiennes said that the Singapore marathon
had been by far the most difficult because of high humidity and
pollution. He also said that his cardiac surgeon had approved the
marathons providing his heart-rate did not exceed a set amount;
Fiennes later confessed to having forgotten to pack his heart-rate
Fiennes career as an author has developed alongside that of explorer.
He is the author of thirteen books in fiction and non-fiction. In
2003 he published a biography of Captain Scott which proved to be
a very robust defence of Scott's achievements and reputation which
had been strongly questioned by biographers such as Roland Huntford.
Although others have made comparisons between Fiennes and Scott,
Fiennes himself says that he identifies more with Captain Oates,
another member of Scott's doomed Antarctic team.
His works include:
Ranulph Fiennes, To The Ends of the Earth (1983) ISBN 0340252774
-- account of the Transglobe Expedition.
Fiennes stood for the Countryside Party in the 2004 European elections
in the South West England region — 4th on their list of 6. The Party
received 30,824 votes - insufficient for any of their candidates
to be elected.
In 1970, while serving with the Omani Army, Fiennes received the
Sultan's Bravery Medal. In 1983 he was awarded an honourary doctorate
by Loughborough University, and later received the Royal Geographical
Society's Founders Medal.
Fiennes was appointed OBE in 1993 "for Human Endeavour and
for charitable services"- his expeditions have raised £5
million for good causes. In 1995 he was awarded the Polar Medal
- he is the only person ever to receive a bar to this award, having
visited both poles.
His title "Sir" comes from his hereditary Baronetcy -
he has not been awarded a knighthood. His formal style is thus Sir
Ranulph Twisleton-Wickham-Fiennes, Bt, OBE, the "Bt" after
his name indicating that he is a baronet.