Book Review: Facing the Frozen Ocean

It is always to read about acute discomfort in the security of an armchair, and life does not get much nastier than that described in this book. Bear Grylls, who achieved fame as the youngest Britain to climb Everest, out from Halifax, Nova Scotia, to complete the first unassisted crossing of the north Atlantic to John o’Groats.

Despite meticulous planning, everything seems to have gone wrong. Mr Grylls and his four companions hit head winds, gales and towering seas which tossed their tiny, single-engined inflatable craft unmercifully. If it had capsized or hit an iceberg they would certainly have died in frozen waters. They were cold and wet and miserable most of the time.

Almost to my surprise, I found this an inspriing and moving read. Prince Charles, his patron, describes Mr Grylls as a ‘great British eccentric adventurer’, which is accurate. He is a real Boy’s Own hero, ex SAS and an inspirational leader. This should irritate a bit, but somehow it does not, because he comes across as genuilnely modest, a rare trait today among modern ‘heroic’ writers. He has the simple, deeply held philosphy of a strong man, with the self-depreciating Birtish humour I association with Peter Fleming, who pioneered the genre.

The book reads well, with a fluent, fluid style that carries you along. Sometimes it is all a bit too good to be true: everyone he works with is a ‘real live wire’ or a ‘good sport’, and when he has a problem people will always ‘drop everything to help’. Yet he has the ability to touch the heartstrings. His writing will mature and he will find how to give it an edge. I look forward to reading his next adventure.