Peter Treseder * The Golden Globe circuit
Did Peter Treseder really run across Australia’s Gibson Desert – 500 km at an average of 110 k a day for four days – on nothing but 20 kg of water in a backpack and 2 family sized blocks of chocolate and then on his way home leap into a canyon full of icy water to rescue an unconscious abseiler suspended over a waterfall for ten hours, revive her, steer her to safety for three hours through boulder-strewn gorges, hand her over to her boyfriend (who hadn’t even called the rescue services) and go on home to mow the lawn?
Er, no, probably not, you say. And did he really, after being captured by pirates in the Timor Sea, free himself from his ropes, fight off two guards, and paddle back to Australia in his canoe with no water and a disabled rudder system? Strangely enough, he told no one about this ordeal for some time, perhaps, his biographer says, because he didn’t want to upset his family.
Did he complete a run of 1500km in ten days over rugged bush tracks in a time that would leave world-champion Yannis Kouros far behind, or solo-raft the Franklin river in a rubber ducky, traversing the most dangerous sections at night, in 26 hours as compared to the 10 days it usually takes? Did he, at 18, after an introductory mountaineering course, climb the notoriously difficult Caroline Face of Mount Cook in New Zealand, wearing crampons attached to pieces of plywood? Not according to the climbing records or the Hut Logs of the New Zealand National Park.
Treseder laid claim to all this, and many more solo feats, in his biography, Man of Adventure (1999). He raised a lot of money for charity, received many national honours, and faded discreetly away rather than being outed.
In the end, Peter Treseder’s lies harm nobody, and we enjoy the imaginary hero, even when we know he’s fake. But Donald Crowhurst’s story is the bizarrest of tragedies, a nightmare of a man trapped in a fantastic scheme of his own devising.
In 1968 Crowhurst entered the first Golden Globe race to circumnavigate the world nonstop: a journey of 27,000 miles across the Atlantic, round the Cape of Good Hope, across the Indian and Pacific Oceans, round Cape Horn, and back to Britain. He had invented a navigation device and he wanted to prove its worth. He agreed to mortgage his house to repay the businessman backing him if he failed to complete the race, and he took part in a nationwide publicity campaign run by a reporter who had set up his own PR firm.
There were a couple of major problems, though: he was a rank amateur who got seasick and his boat was described by local fishermen as “a right load of plywood”.
Crowhurst knew he and his boat would never survive the ferocious Southern Ocean. Instead, he spent months floating round in the South Atlantic concocting logbooks for his fictitious voyage and he would, perhaps, have got away with it if he had waited a few more months before announcing that he was on his way home. This would make him the winner, he was horrified to hear. He realised that his logbooks and his account of the voyage would not stand up to scrutiny. On July 11th 1969 his abandoned boat was found west of the Azores. The true story was made clear in the rambling notes that accompanied the doctored logbooks (from which his PR man made a lot of money).
“It is the end of my game. The truth has been revealed,” was the last note.
* Treseder photo credit http://www.coolrunning.com.au/ultra/treseder.shtml%5D