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Eric Phillips

Eric is the only person to have skied across the world's four largest icecaps - Antarctica to the South Pole, Greenland, the South Patagonian Icecap and Ellesmere Island. His 84-day journey to the South Pole - chronicled in his book, ICETREK-, pioneered a new route through the Transantarctic mountains. His expeditions have produced three internationally screened documentaries, most notably, the Emmy Award-winning Greenland film, Chasing the Midnight Sun. Most recently he became the first Australian, along with Jon Muir, to reach the North Pole unsupported. Eric is now based in Hobart with his family, where he operates his company, IceTrek.

Tim first came to know Eric while he was living in Finland preparing for the cycling adventure. Tim had been told by many people that making a life out of adventure was almost impossible. Eric was living proof that it could be done. Since then Eric has helped provide invaluable assurance, encouragement and knowledge, steering Tim down the path he now follows. Contact Eric and find out more

Interview with Eric Phillips, Polar Explorer Extrordinaire...

1. Where did you grow up and what did you get up to as a kid?

I was born in Melbourne but grew up in Adelaide. We lived next to a gully and that provided me with lots of adventures. Swinging, and falling, off trees, shimmying through storm water drain pipes, riding my bike on the rough tracks. With 6 kids in my family and lots of friends in the neighbourhood every day was jam packed. But I was also into sport - soccer, judo, volleyball and later, triathlons. Anything physical was good.

2. How did you find your senior years of School? Did you know what you wanted to do?

Schooling was pretty tiring as I wasn't that academic. I was truly a slacker at school, preferred to go on school camps, play sport and be naughty. I knew I wanted to get a tertiary degree but wasn't keen on my options after I flunked matriculation. Ended up going to teachers college and studying Geology and Physical Education. Wasn't that rapt in either but the former took me on field trips into the bush and the latter was to be the springboard into Outdoor Education.

3. What was something important that sparked your decision to launch into dreams of adventure and exploration?

There was no defining moment that led me to dream about being adventurous. I always dreamed I was. As a 12 year old a book about Antarctic in my parents bookshelf sparked my interest in Antarctica, and as a 30 year old the outdoor achievements of the students I taught at Timbertop inspired me to take up adventuring as a profession.

4. What is it that makes you come alive the most?

Being wild in the wilds in wild weather.

5. Any advice for young people who are wondering how they can aim for their own dreams?

Listen to the advice of others but if it really cuts against the grain follow your instincts. Find what it is that really makes your stomach knot up in both fear and passion and, if you can forge a way through social, family, peer, and financial constraints, follow it like a guiding light.

6. What do your parents think about your adventures?

They wax and wane depending on what I'm up to. If I'm planning another trip they are concerned, when I'm on the ice they are concerned but excited by the journey, when I get back they are proud and relieved and when I'm dormant they speak not of new projects. I think they wish I'd "settle down" to family life, something I did seven years ago when Mardi was born.

7. What would you say are the low points and high points of your adventure travel lifestyle?

Low points - being destitute and strapped for cash when my belief in what I wanted to do was not generating any revenue. Also, the time away from my family takes its toll on both me and them. Lucky it's a temporary thing. Highlights - Freedom from regimentation. Making a living from what I dearly love to do, I work from home and have the opportunity to pursue whatever strikes a chord.

8. In really hard times what is it that gives you the motivation to go on?

My family, unquestionably.

9. What is the worst situation you have encountered and how did you get out of it?

When Jon went though the ice into the Arctic Ocean. It was -29C, he went in up to his chest and we only had a few minutes to get him out and into the tent and sleeping bag. We both clicked into auto-pilot, if we didn't Jon would now be dead. He grabbed a thin line I had strung across the lead in preparation to pull the sleds across and and pulled on that. It was too thin to get a good grip but I think it provided a semblance of security. He managed to break through the ice in front of him and reached the pack ice where I could physically help him. I immediately pulled the sleds across and got him to tow his onto a flat pan where we would set up camp. He didn't realise the sleds were still connected together and towed the 220kg weight over a 3 metre-high pressure ridge. Within minutes I had him under cover and in his bag with hot water flasks. It took him 5 days to recover properly from the dunking.

10. Any views on Tim's journeys, or do you have any dirt to share (stuff that Tim isn't willing to bring up himself)?

Tim's not daunted by the big picture - adventure, culture, commitment and companionship are all bundled together. His love for long journeys in the Arctic is evident in his films, his writing and his character. He has what so many young people have - exuberance, energy, vision - but has the passion to etch a lifestyle and living from it. I admire that.

11. Ultimately, what do you love about adventure travel?

The lifestyle, visiting remote places, meeting locals who forge a living from these inhospitable places, sharing the yarns when I get back.

12. What was one of the funniest moments you have shared during a journey?

Jon and I had obviously gone a little stir crazy on the Arctic Ocean. We heard U2 songs coming from the MSR stove then pondered whether U2 were indeed inside the stove. Laugh, I nearly shat!

13. If you had to pick one highlight to date what would it be?

Reaching the North Pole. It's such a difficult point to reach and is the culmination of not only a successful expedition but a successful life journey of ice adventuring.

14. Any views on Tim's journeys, or do you have any dirt to share (stuff that Tim isn't willing to bring up himself)?

Tim's not daunted by the big picture - adventure, culture, commitment and companionship are all bundled together. His love for long journeys in the Arctic is evident in his films, his writing and his character. He has what so many young people have - exuberance, energy, vision - but has the passion to etch a lifestyle and living from it. I admire that.

Thanks Eric, and good luck! More about Eric