Frauds (freuds) 2 – Peter Treseder and Donald Crowhurst

          ptreseder                                         GoldenGlobeRaceRoute                                                  

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








10 thoughts on “Frauds (freuds) 2 – Peter Treseder and Donald Crowhurst

    1. I haven’t read the play, just always liked the title. I thought it sort of mysterious, intriguing. But I looked up the synopsis the other day and found that it is a dark play that focuses on a group of lost souls who have deluded themselves (and sometimes others) about their lives. In the course of the play, some of them come to terms with others’ views of them (aka, reality?) and deal with that, for better or worse. I suppose that I’ll have to find time to read the play now!

      1. Yes, I looked up the old Wiki after your comment and found that one of thecharacters says at the end “(“Be God, there’s no hope! I’ll never be a success…Life is too much for me!”) And you got me thinking about things like “Death of a Salesman” too – a kind of American theme of people taking on huge dreams they can’t possibly live up to?

        1. I don’t know enough modern drama to answer that, but sounds like an interesting analysis. Maybe my dramaturg daughter would know, although her major work has been more along the lines of Shakespeare and Restoration plays. There certainly is an expectation of success in the American world, and an unwillingness to allow fate, genetics, or anything else to have a say. So we get Helen Keller, and also the mass shooters.

  1. And I just thought of Streetcar— “I coulda been a contender”…
    The other side of that American Dream thing – if you fail,you have only yourself to blame..

  2. I’m guessing that a lot of American drama and film fits quite neatly into that “Reach for the Sky” category. And of course, the musicals tend to be about reaching for the sky, and (most improbably) getting it. Horatio Alger is the flip side of the dream.

      1. Never got around to it. My husband read it and found it interesting. I felt like I had worked at enough of those jobs to know what they were like, plus, spent several years in the late 1960s and early 1970s doing grant writing and project management for the Poverty Program. Plus, for the past 40 years have been doing criminal justice and other justice system research, and from that perspective, have an idea of what that life is. Does she discuss the dreams that the low-wage workers have, or mainly the difficulty of ever moving out of that situation?

  3. I haven’t read it but heard her interviewed on a radio programme. Yes, she talks about the fact that people on poverty-level wages and no rights working as cleaners in the houses of the obscenely rich did not resent or envy their employers but dreamed that they, too, one day, would have houses with gold bathtaps. It seems extraordinary to Australians who are big on fairness, though the zeitgeist here is shifting, it seems, as the middle class get wealthier and the poor poorer.

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