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Daniel Byles achieved fame in 1997 by rowing 3000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean in 101 days in a 23 foot wooden boat, with his mother Jan as his team mate.
Then in 2007, the pair were reunited in adventure once again when they became the first mother and son team to reach the Magnetic North Pole by foot, hauling their sleds 350 miles across the worst ice conditions for years.
In talking about his amazing adventures with his mother, Dan is a powerful and charismatic speaker. Witty and entertaining, he describes his exploits with humility; and he discusses his unique relationship with his mother with tenderness. He is an inspiration to those who hear him speak.
Dan has packed an enormous amount into his 33 years:
• He has climbed and sailed all over the world.
• At 27, Dan was the youngest serving Major in the British Army.
• He is a Guinness World Record holder for crossing an ocean in a rowing boat with his mother.
• He also holds a Guinness World Record reaching the Magnetic North Pole by foot – also with his mother.
• Dan and his mother are featured twice in the 2008 Guinness Book of Records.
In 1997 only 22 people had ever rowed across an ocean, and six had died trying. Dan didn’t let these statistics, or the fact that he had never set foot in a rowing boat in his life, put him off when he and a friend signed up for the first ever ocean rowing race. When his friend dropped out due to work commitments, Dan asked his mother to join him.
They were very much the 'Heath Robinson' team, setting off with a £30 camping stove, no satellite phone, just a hand pump for water, and only one set of foul weather gear between the two of them! The intrepid pair went on to spend 101 days at sea in their tiny wooden rowing boat, crossing over 3000 nautical miles. They set two World Records – the oldest person ever to row any ocean, and the first mother and son team to do so.
Ten years later, in 2007, they achieved another record as the first mother and son to reach any Pole by foot when they walked and skied 350 nautical miles to the Magnetic North Pole. Surviving Polar Bears and temperatures as low as as -68o C, they reached the Pole in 24 days; during which they faced the worst ice conditions for years, slush and open water, and a near catastrophic tent fire which almost ended their adventure with disaster! Guinness World Records were so impressed they delayed printing the 2008 book in order to include the intrepid pair.
More people have been in space than have rowed across an ocean or walked to one of the Earth’s Poles. More people have walked on the moon than have done both.
Areas of Expertise
Dan’s story is multi-layered.
It is a tale of human endeavour. He was neither a rower nor a sailor before embarking across the Atlantic, and he had no Arctic experience before setting out to the Pole. He and his mother proved that ordinary people are capable of the most extraordinary feats if they believe in themselves.
It is also a tale of human relationships. Few mothers and sons get to really know one another as friends and companions the way that Dan and his mother did, during 101 days at sea and 24 days in the Arctic. And by taking his mother with him, the responsibility Dan felt to bring her back safely was almost overwhelming. Before the Atlantic row, an entrant from Germany summed it up when he said: “I think you have the most precious cargo of all on your boat.”
Dan firmly believes that we’re all in charge of our own destinies, and it is the challenges that we turn away from in life that we most regret. The most important factor in taking control of your life isn’t how strong or clever you are – it’s your attitude.
Whatever your challenge is, in your work or your home life, if you believe in yourself you can succeed. Anyone can cross their ocean, reach their Pole, climb their own personal Everest, as long as they have the right mental attitude.