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Man: Here’s a good quiz question for you. What began with the mummy of Hornedjitet and a Tanzanian chopping tool, and ended with a credit card and a solar-powered lamp?
Woman: I can answer that. It was that amazing radio series on the history of the world in 100 objects, I didn’t hear all the programmes but I thought those I did catch were fantastic. They chose such interesting things to talk about.
Man: Yes, didn’t they just! I did try to listen to most of the programmes and if I missed one then I caught up with what it had been about on the website of the museum that all the selected objects came from. That’s good too, though I’m not so keen on their constantly dancing graphics. 
Woman: Oh, I rather liked those — they make it nice and lighthearted, I thought. 
Man: Well, the series wasn’t heavy in any way, was it? Informative of course but entertaining as well, I thought they interviewed some really interesting people.
Woman: Actually I thought some of those were much better than others. But generally I learnt so much from the programmes. I hope they repeat them soon. 
Man: Yes, they were fun, weren’t they?
Man: How many applicants do you tend to have for your undergraduate courses? We’ve got three applicants for every place this year and it’s going to be very hard to pick who we should accept.
Woman: Yeah, we have that problem too. We sort all the application forms into two piles – er, noes and maybes. Then we invite the maybes for interview. It seems to work pretty well for us though of course it’s quite time-consuming. 
Man: Hm, we interview too but it’s hard to be confident we’re picking the right people. Some people really don’t show themselves at their best in an interview situation and we wondered whether it might not be better just to set the most promising applicants an essay to write and see how they get along with that. It’d surely be better for everyone if we didn’t have to spend time on interviews.
Woman: Yes, I’m sure my colleagues might welcome that but how could you be sure that the essays were all their own work? Unless you could somehow make them do it under exam conditions, of course. 
Man: I suppose you’re right but I still think it’d be fairer than the system we currently operate.
Woman: They rang me today about the kitchen. Someone’s going to pop round tomorrow to discuss it and they think they’ll start work on Thursday.
Man: Goodness, as soon as that. Do you think we’ll be ready by then? I’ve still got to empty the old cupboards, take all the curtains down, all that sort of thing and I’d like to have done a bit of decorating before they get going. 
Woman: Well, It’d certainly be better to do it before rather than after and risk getting paint on the new surfaces. Perhaps I could ask them to extend the schedule a bit and start next week?
Man: No, let’s leave things as they are. The sooner they start, the sooner they finish, after all. And I’m quite looking forward to seeing how they do things.
Woman: Are you really? I’m going to try to be out most of the time. We’re going to have to eat out while work’s in progress anyway.
Man: That’s a nuisance, isn’t it! I’m so busy at the moment I’d really prefer to be spending the evenings quietly at home.
Woman: Absolutely! Still it’ll be great when all the work’s done. 
Man: I hope so!
James: I feel very fortunate that at only 23 years old I have already spend more than 18 weeks on an unsupported polar expedition, going from one side of Greenland to the other. I completed it last year together with Greg Hamilton.  It was 2,198 kilometres and it was actually the longest unsupported polar expedition in history. By ‘unsupported’ I mean that we pulled everything ourselves without the help of any motorised vehicles or animals. The only help that we did have was from kites which — when the wind conditions were good — pulled us along as we skied, dragging our sleds behind us.  I can assure you that it was still very hard work!
People often ask me what first interested me in polar exploration. I think they imagine that I come from a family of explorers or something like that, but in fact I come from a pretty conventional family. In fact my mum and dad were both architects and neither of them were even particularly into sport.  They often wonder where on earth I could have got it from.
I was always very sporty and adored football from pretty much before I could walk. I did a lot of swimming and cycling too. I was about fifteen I suppose when I became hooked on adventurous activities. It all started when I discovered I got a particular kick out of kayaking. That took me on some amazing long expeditions and I guess I haven’t looked back since. 
Also, when I was about fifteen, I learnt about an expedition which has gripped my imagination and held my admiration ever since. This was the 1995 unsupported journey by Richard Weber and Misha Malakhov to the North Pole.  The distance and technical difficulty of their expedition was enormous and they kept going despite most so-called ‘experts’ claiming they would fail.
I love reading about other explorers. If I were to have a hero it would undoubtedly be Fridtjof Nansen, the Norwegian explorer. He had – great breadth – as is shown by the fact that he was also a diplomat and geologist.  All in all a quite remarkable man.
Reading Nansen’s biography taught me that the key thing all explorers need in harsh conditions is the ability to keep their mind under control.  If they can’t manage that, then they won’t succeed even if their body is in top physical condition.
I’m often asked to give advice to would-be explorers and I always say: you shouldn’t just look at what has already been done and copy it, thinking it’s the only way. Think of new challenges that you can attempt. In terms of gaining the necessary funding, don’t spend months cold-calling but concentrate on networking.  This is the only way to make the critical relationships which lead to big sums of funds.
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