About the author

Laura Moss

Laura Moss spent 16 months cycling 13,000 miles around the world. She curates the Long Distance Cycling Journeys database and organises the Festival of Cycle Touring. Her husband, Tim, runs this website. Read more...


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    I agree with several points here: iconic trips and destinations getting crowded, going low key, the sheer thoughness of swimming long distances in open water, etc. but I can’t help disagreeing with the title.

    It’s hard for me to concider something were you have a support crew and you can stop and get away from it if needed as an expedition. It’s more like an incredible series of great athletic archievements, like running a marathon a day for hundreds days straight or running a 3100-mile competition. But an expedition? I don’t know.

    If I’d have to name the greatest expedition of 2013 I’d say it’s the Scott Expedition. It’s a classic style expedition were you are on your own for a long time, get physically and mentally challenged and in the end archiave something no one has ever done before: a new route (somewhat) and longest ever journey (on skis without support).

    There are still plenty of challenging firsts and remote places to visit left if you use your imagination. You don’t even have to go with a pogo stick and blindfolded but just do it in good unsupported and unassisted style. The Empty Quarter was crossed this way first time ever just this year! There’s plenty of wilderness to roam and explore in the Arctic Canada, the Siberian tundra, on desersts and in the tropic. Getting it organized and having the courage to do so is not easy but who said the greatest expeditions would be?

    (All this said I don’t know if I’ll ever be one to do a world-class expedition, I enjoy other things. But my hat is off for those who try in good style!)

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      Hi Korpijaakko, thanks for the comment. I think you highlight a broader issue: how you define an expedition.

      Does it have to be remote? And what does ‘remote’ mean? Some of the Scottish islands Sean swam past can take several days to get to by normal means. Does it have to be unsupported? What does this mean (would carrying a sat phone or eperb disqualify you)? Does it have to be alone? Does it have to be human-powered? Does it have to be a first, however arbitrary?

      I don’t know the answer to these questions, although I am sure there are people out there who claim to. However, I think it’s largely semantics.

      If something has not been done before, if there is a risk of failure, if it is a mental and physical challenge and if the bloke undertaking it comes back with an awesome beard, then for me it can be called an expedition. What Sean did ticks all these boxes.

      As an aside, I think the Scott expedition is a worthy journey but if and when they complete it, it will be 2014. It is also harder for me – and I suspect many people – to identify with. By way of contrast, most people have been swimming so can appreciate what’s involved a challenge like Sean Conway’s. (I may also be naturally biased towards swimming and swimmers).

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    Thansk for the reply, Laura!

    I think you hit it with the larger issue. The (short) Twitter discussion also quickly turned into the matter of defining expedition. And just like you, I don’t know how it should be defined. The likely answer to all of yoru questions is no or maybe. :D Though I don’t completely agree with your definition: Would running one more marathon in a row than anyone else has ever done be an expedition? Assuming a male runner and that no shaving is done in between. ;) For me it would be an achievement in endurance sports and not an expedition. But the line between the two is thin and blurred at best.

    And I may also be naturally biased towards hauling heavy things in cold places. ;)

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    Tim Moss

    Enjoying the discussion.

    Korpijaakko: I doubt many of us would assume that “one more marathon” would automatically qualify as an expedition but, equally, I think most would recognise that Sean’s swim has a lot more elements of an expedition elements than that.

    But, expedition definitions aside, I’d happily stick up for Sean’s swim as the best “adventure” of the year (beating competition from any “pure” expeditions in the same category!). Wonderfully original, very ballsy and an impressive achievement.

    Looking forward to Ben and Tarka rolling home in the new year too.


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