Adventure ain’t what it used to be. Now it is very much limited, commercialised and disappointingly, the so called adventurers see absolutely nothing wrong with it.
The Australian English Oxford Dictionary defines ‘adventure’ as 1 an unusual and exiting experience. 2 a daring enterprise; a hazardous activity. 3 enterprise (the spirit of adventure) and ‘adventurer’ as 1 a person who seek adventure, especially for personal gain or enjoyment. 2 a financial speculator. I seem to recall that Julia Gillard described her joining of Australian Labor Party as the commencement of a great adventure.
My old fashioned and perhaps naïve understanding of adventure is well described by Mungo Park at the beginning of his book Travels in the Interior of Africa – The Author’s motives: Soon after my return from the East Indies in 1793, having learnt that the noblemen and gentlemen, associated for the purpose of prosecuting discoveries in the interior of Africa, were desirous of engaging a person to explore that continent by way of the Gambia River, I took occasion, through means of the President of the Royal Society, to whom I had the honour to be known, of offering myself for that service. I had been informed, that a gentleman of the name of Houghton, a captain in the army, and formerly fort-major at Goree, had already sailed to the Gambia, under the direction of the Association, and that there was reason to apprehend he had fallen a sacrifice to the climate, or perished in some contest with the natives; but this intelligence, instead of deterring me from my purpose, animated me to persist in the offer of my services with greater solicitude. I had a passionate desire to examine into the productions of a country so little known, and to became experimentally acquainted with the modes of life and character of the natives. I knew that I was able to bear fatigue; and relied on my youth and the strength of my constitution to preserve me from the effects of the climate.
Today, we rely on the carbon dioxide tax to preserve us from the effects of the climate. When Mungo Park landed in Africa, he was twenty-four year old. He happened to be a medical practitioner, having served as an assistant surgeon on the Worcester, plying the East India seas.
On the subject of doctors; I recall my disappointment when shortly after my arrival in Australia in 1969 I read a short article about the preparation for an Antarctic expedition, which were stymied by inability to find a medical practitioner willing to join it for one year. My new land, the land of men of free and adventurous spirit, cheerfully overcoming the nature hardship could not produce even one doctor prepared for one year to forego his or her easy suburban life and money. The money, in fact, were not that bad, in my recollection, and later some overseas born doctor went to the breach.
In order to move seamlessly from Africa to Norway I remind you that Norwegian coastline is roughly four times that of the African continent. I got this useful information from a magazine article about boating in Norway. Intrepid sailors from the former land of Drake, Nelson and Scott; now the land of ubiquitous surveillance cameras could not comprehend that there were no formalities to attend to in small Norwegian ports, no authorities to report to, no inspections to submit to and not even any forms to fill. They overcome that handicap and later, some long suppressed Magna Charta spirit stirred, liked it. However: “An unpleasant surprise, on the other hand, was not being able to get radio weather forecasts. The Norwegian coastguard does broadcast forecasts in English at regular times, but these do not consist of the usual synopsis and outlook for the following day(s): only strong wind/gale/storm warnings are transmitted. On one occasion, we called the coastguard and were told they could not supply detailed weather information. All that the lady could tell us was that the forecast was ‘good’, and when we asked about wave heights she offered to go and have a look outside”.
Shock and horror! Using eyes instead of China-made electronic instruments! Nevertheless, the “adventurers” got information from meteorological desks in the nearest airport and survived to write the tale for The Practical Boat Owner No 536, July 2011, A Norwegian summer cruise – the Lofoten Islands.
Roald Amundsen, mentioned in today’s NOTHING NEW UNDER THE SUN, must be turning in his grave. What a difference can hundred years make. And no, I am not mistaking an exploration for an adventure.
Leaving aside David Hicks style of adventure, so admired by our Left and by self-described adventurer Dick Smith; for today’s youth the height of adventure seems to be tie a rubber band round the ankles, jump and let their parents to pay for it.
Of course, if you do something you could feasibly claim nobody has done before, like climbing Kilimanjaro blindfolded with a donkey on your back; you can set up an Adventure Travel Agency and live from that until somebody with a camel on his, or preferably her, back, pushes you aside. If donkey is AIDS ridden, you can collect the charity lucre as well.
The real adventure is no more, and the dictionaries mark the decline. I sense that mankind today lacks not only the spirit, but the courage as well, the courage physical and more importantly mental. Perhaps, hopefully, I am mistaken and maybe there are adventurers somewhere we hear nothing about, because of their failure to sign a media contract beforehand. In that case, and to them only, I apologise.