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Sir Wally Herbert

I met Wally Herbert on the QE2. He gave me what appears to be a photograph of himself and three companions at the North Pole on the 6th of April, 1969. In fact it is not a photo but a watercolour that he did from memory and with such extraordinary detail that it appears to be a photograph. Sir Wally contends that the 6th of April 1969 was the first time the North Pole was reached on foot.

One might expect that the North Pole would have been reached before 1969, and indeed American explorer Robert Peary is said to have reached the Pole in 1909. This claim is now in some doubt, though it is supported by his diary and meticulous observations.

Sir Wally is to be recognised by a group of fellow adventurers at a testimonial event at the Royal Geographical Society this week. They include Sir Ranulph Fiennes, who called Sir Wally "the greatest polar explorer of our time," and Sir Chris Bonington.

In a 40-year polar career, Wally traveled with dog teams and in open boats well over 25,000 miles, most of that distance in unexplored areas that no human being had set foot on before.

We have written about the men who made extreme journeys in the interest of science herepolar explorers.

Elephant Island off Antarctica

It is rather a cool section.