Paul Rose 57, expedition leader, polar guide, professional diver and instructor, mountaineer, engineer and television presenter, was base commander of the British Antarctic Survey's Rothera Research Station for ten years and is a former vice president of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG). He has led a crossing of the Greenland icecap and attempted to reach the summit of Mount Everest. Last year, he received the Society's Ness Award 'for the popularisation of geography and the wider understanding of the world' and he has also been the recipient of both the Queen's Polar Medal and the US Navy Polar Medal. Natalie Hoare caught up in with him after his return from filming his latest BBC series, Oceans
I couldn't stand sitting in a classroom. I failed my 11-Plus but was saved from certain disaster by my geography teacher. He stepped away from the classroom, and all the horrors that it held for me, and took the class to the Brecon Beacons. Those first big climbs, walks and even peeling spuds at the Merthyr Tydfil youth hostel were a defining period for me.
We were taught how to navigate using a map and compass, and all these things we had been forced to learn in the classroom started to make sense to me. Things such as angles and mathematics all seemed to have a use in the outdoors and I began to appreciate their value. Once I was standing there looking at the stone walls, valleys and reservoirs and relating them to the map I was holding, I knew I wanted to be a geographer--I just didn't know it was called that until later.
My first job was delivering meat on a bicycle for the butcher, i then got onto a four-year tool-making apprenticeship at Ford in Dagenham, which had a great social scene through various sports clubs. During that time I learned to dive, climb, sail, and I even became a qualified toolmaker. I learned quickly and found that applying mathematics to engineering and mechanics was a breeze, because I understood it from sailing and from navigating around the hills with a map and compass.
After four years making giant press tools for car body parts, I got a job at Lesney in Leytonstone, making the tools that made Matchbox toy cars. I started to earn some proper, non-apprenticeship money, and that's where the diving really took off. Then I moved to the USA.
Americans had a real' go for it 'attitude, which I felt was missing in Britain at that time. While working for Johnson Outboards, which makes engines for boats, I got my PADI diving instructor and commercial diving tickets and gained my mountain guides qualification.
It was still a hobby until I picked up some contracts teaching high school students, emergency response dive teams, police departments, fire departments and underwater recovery teams. I also owned a climbing shop and travel agency at the time and was guiding in the mountains. When I landed a job as the diving instructor at the US Naval Training Center, I was able to quit my day job and become a diving and mountain guide full time. Right up until 1988, I was guiding and teaching climbing and diving for a living--and working commercially.
Then a mate and I bought a permit for Mount Everest. …