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A Human First


This story is a week old but is still extremely present and is one of the reasons why I haven’t been blogging lately. Big up to Jason Lewis who as of last Saturday 06 October 2007 completed the first ever circumnavigation of the globe via human power. No wind, no sails just hiking, kayaking, rollerblading, cycling and pedalling his custom-built pedal boat Moksha on the Atlantic, Pacific, Indian ocean and Channel legs. You can read the fascinating journal here or go to the main site here.

I became involved (by utter random fluke!) around 6 years ago mainly as part of the media support team. I was catering manager and boat-pusher on Saturday. Developing ideas for tv and producing is fine. Boat-pushing is fine. Sorting out a completion party for 120 people made me bite all my nails off. How am I going to cram everything in my car without destroying the clutch? How am I going to get everything there in time? Why haven’t the fluorescent vests been delivered from the man on ebay yet? Will anyone like the food? Will there be enough food? Will we actually get everyone in to the venue? Are the chairs comfortable enough for the old people? Will anyone actually eat? Will the tealights be a fire hazard? The answer to the last question was yes – they set fire to flowers on the table near visiting babies heads if you are not careful.

The expedition was a truly incredible feat. A proper adventure fraught with the inevitable near-death experiences due to illness, an insistent crocodile, far too many snakes, military coups, the ocean in general and severe injury not to mention the incessant lack of funds to keep going from day to day and dodgy government officialdom doing their best to thwart progress.

13 years and 46505 miles later Jason arrived to clamouring hordes of broadcast and press journalists.

Most of us donned our fluorescent vests earlier that morning in a valiant attempt to keep the ensuing media scrum under control. The most heartening thing about the last minute or two of the final finish which involved us pulling Moksha from a slipway in Greenwich, through the streets and up the hill to the Greenwich Meridian was the public crowd lining the final route all cheering and clapping so happily. It was truly overwhelming. I turned to Sher (who accompanied Jason on the Mumbai to Djibouti leg) behind me and tried to speak but realised I was gulping like a goldfish with what felt like a big hard stone lodged in my chest. A big chunk of emotion disabling me from doing anything apart from continuing to push the boat and grin inanely with tears pouring silently down my face. I couldn’t see the front but I know Jason was completely overcome. Not surprising really.

The party went by without a hitch and was enhanced greatly by the 12 magnums and huge Jeroboam of fabulous champagne as well as a further 48 bottles of award-winning red and white so generously donated by Lynn Murray of Taittinger for the day. A good time was had by all. The best thing about the final day was the feeling of family within the previously scattered team – members from America, UK, Belgium, India, Singapore et al all came together at Greenwich and worked together to ensure the day went smoothly. I met people I have never met before but feel I have known all my life due to the common ground we share with the expedition. A great and true human first. Expedition 360 does not end here. We aim to continue the ethos and original premise of the expedition in other media and educational forms for the future. I am proud and honoured to be a part of it.

John Macartney for Radio 4’s Excess Baggage programme interviews Jason Lewis here. All photographs Copyright Paul Cox

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