Who is Nabs Al-Busaidi – I was born in London, and lived there for most of my life, although I have also lived 14 years in Bahrain, plus time in Oman, UAE and Ireland. I am originally a Zanzibari Omani, but I probably feel more international than any particular nationality. I went to Bath University UK for a math degree and a masters in management. I got university colours for playing football and American football, and I also played rugby for Bahrain and Muscat. In 2001 I went to the British Biathlon Championships and raced 3 years
Q, Can you place your expeditions in order of difficulty.
That is easy! By far the hardest thing I have ever done is row across the Atlantic. Perhaps the best way to try and explain why, is to express it mathematically. The top 3 expeditions were physically tough in ways beyond normal comprehension. But whilst climbing Everest, we would have to trek or climb 3-6 hours a day. Whilst walking to the North Pole, we would have to trek 8-11 hours a day. But whilst going across the Atlantic, it was 12 hours a day, 2 hours on, 2 hours off, every day for 43 days. And that doesn’t even take into account the 5 days of constant vomiting from sea sickness at the start, the cramped living quarters, the inability to sleep…but I did have a great crew, and we kept each others spirit high, and so in some ways, it was also the most fun!
Magnetic North Pole
Mt Vinson, Antarctica – two exceptionally tough days, one getting up to high camp, and then summit days. Dangerous terrain, terrible conditions and physically tough work.
Mt Kilimanjaro – compared to the others, a gentle stroll for a few days.
Q, Prior to your expedition to the Magnetic North Pole did you have any idea that you would turn your life into an adventure that inspired thousands around the globe?
Nabs Al-Busaidi – Well, one of my aims in walking to the magnetic North Pole, was to try and inspire the youth of the Middle East, and to try and create a positive image of Arabs in the Western media. It is a sad fact that if you tried to use word association, the first words that come to mind when you hear the word “Islamic” is to think the next word will be “terrorist” or “fundamentalist”. I used to joke that I wanted to be the first Arab to famous for not blowing something up! Unfortunately, I don’t think I quite managed to achieve what I set out to do, but I do school visits every month and try and inspire kids through my example.
Q, In 2009 what grabbed your attention to inspire you to walk too the Magnetic North Pole, it’s not something most people would think to do.
Nabs Al-Busaidi – It wasn’t what I initially set my mind upon. In fact, I was thinking about Everest, and spoke to the only person I knew personally who had done major expeditions. He had walked to the magnetic North Pole and rowed across the Atlantic, and he pointed out that nearly 4,000 people had climbed Everest, but only 400 had ever walked to a pole. So not only would it be more unique, I would also be the first Arab. And whilst you can break a record by being the fastest, youngest, oldest, longest etc…tomorrow, someone will come along and beat your record. But when you are first, no one can ever beat that.
Q, Sadly during your attempt to climb Mt Everest at 5500m you had a nasty accident resulting in two severely damaged ankles and a crushed reproductive system, do you have any plans to revisit the highest mountain in the world and beat the beast?
Nabs Al-Busaidi – Crushed reproductive system! hahahaha! I think that suggests a state of permanant damage that I thankfully managed to avoid, although, at the time, I probably felt that way! I was descending from 6,200 metres after summiting Lobuche East when some ice broke under my crampons. I fell only about a meter, but my ankles were twisted, and my full body weight managed to tear, break snap everything inside both joints. I ended hanging upside down, with parts of my reproductive system underneath the harness, which was supporting my body weight. Three years to the day, I am still limping as my right ankle has not healed, so I still dream of getting back to Everest, but at the moment, my biggest dream is just being able to walk again without pain.
Q, And how do you go about dealing with post expedition depression after something like the ending of the Everest trip, I can’t even start to imagine how.
Nabs Al-Busaidi – Unfortunately, I still do not know the answer to that. I dealt with it badly, and it affected everything. Friends, family, work, fiancée. It was probably the worst 2 years of my life, not so much the failure, but the injury, the change in expectations, the change in lifestyle from hyper active to stuck in bed for 2 months, loss of income, sense of purpose etc Each failure fed the others, and it was a vicious circle. Luckily, I did have a few great friends, who were understanding, and supportive, and helped me get back onto my feet.
Q, I have to admit you are the first Arab Adventurer I’ve had the pleasure of researching, have you noticed since you started off life as an adventurer in 2009 there has been a new increase in fellow Arabians exploring more on great adventures and following in your footsteps?
Nabs Al-Busaidi – As we speak, there are 7 Arabs trying to summit Everest this month, and in Oman where my expeditions have been covered daily by the radio and newspapers, there has been a lot of people going to the Alps, Kilimanjaro, etc. I can’t say that they are following in my footsteps, but prior to my trek to the pole, there was virtually no one doing these things, and now it seems fairly common place.
Q, In 2011 when rowing the Atlantic Ocean how did you handle the extremely confined space in which the Britannia III had for housing 14 people?
Nabs Al-Busaidi – I have no idea. Even now, when I try and explain what we did and how, people flat out do not believe me. They insist that we must have had a supporting boat with beds and a kitchen, and that I must be lying about the lack of support or the conditions we faced…and I don’t blame them. It does seem unlikely. I think the only factor in being able to cope with the cramped conditions was that we were so tired. Once our shift was over, we would head into the cabin, find a place to sleep, and be gone within seconds. With the boat rocking and the conditions so cramped, we frequently ended up sleeping intertwined, but we had no energy for arguments or personal space…plus the guys on my shift were some of the best human beings I have met, and we are still the best of friends to this day.
Q, I’m assume most days as sea there wasn’t too much going on around you to distract your mind while rowing, but can you recall back the most amazing thing you had the pleasure of seeing and experiencing as you rowed away?
Nabs Al-Busaidi – I have to say there is one moment that really stuck out for me. I had no interest in fish or views, or nature, or the sharks or the dolphins. But when we were doing our royal yachting association ocean master qualifications, we had to learn a lot about astral navigation. Learning how to use the sun and stars to pin point our position. As a mathematician it was interesting. But on the actual boat we didn’t have the astral tables let alone a sextant. We just used the GPS! But as we rowed each day, the sun would set behind us, and the moon would in front of us. Each day the moon would rise a little earlier as we traveled west, until one evening, they sun set at the same time as the moon rose, and you could see both orbs hanging on the horizon.
Q, If you were to row the Atlantic Ocean again this time on a 4 person vessel and you had the choice of 1 famous Adventurer, 1 celebrity and 1 rugby player – who would you pick for your dream rowing team?
Nabs Al-Busaidi – What a great question…well, I have to preface my choices by saying that the most important ingredient in keeping me sane during the previous row was my team mates. The experience is enough to send some people over the edge, but we survived unscathed through camaraderie. And so if I had to choose, I would choose people I think would be able to keep each others spirits high. Unfortunately I don’t really know the personalities of the categories you have mentioned, so I am going to guess according to reputation.
Q, Your Top 5 bits of kit for any adventure?
Nabs Al-Busaidi – Assuming all the most obvious bits of safety equipment and required gear is covered, these are the bits of kit that I found to be the most conducive to comfort and sanity.
1- ipod – through hours of constant trudging through the wilderness with your own thoughts, this was wonderful for keeping me entertained with music and motivational speeches on the row and North Pole…kindle – I do not own one, so I ended up carrying a book, and after hundreds of miles you see the value of a kindle. Light and full of books…iphone – I had one loaded with videos on Everest, and during the long hours of acclimatising, we were able to entertain ourselves whilst conserving our energy…and all of these could be combined into an ipad or smartphone now, hence I have grouped them all together.
2- Hand warmers – I do not think I would have survived the North Pole without the life saving heat these gave my frozen hands
3- Sat phone – I had to call the radio station in Oman every night during the trek to the pole, and those conversations helped keep up my spirits. Text messages from friends, being able to talk to someone. Invaluable.
4- Solar panel and capacitor – With all those electronics, power is a problem, but a solar panel keeps you top up, and the capacitor stores up energy like a battery ready to recharge when you need it.
5- Baby wipes!!!
Q, and finally what wise word would you give to someone who wishes to follow in your footsteps to climb great mountains and row vast oceans?
Nabs Al-Busaidi – My standard answer is don’t do it…it’s not worth it. That might seem odd, but if they get put off by a couple of words, then they will never survive a full expedition, but if they persist, then I give them all the help I can. The best advice I can probably give at that point is have a vision, a clear idea of what you want to do in your head, and why. If you can have several reasons that are bigger than just personal ego, it will help, because when it gets really tough, you question your reasons for doing it, and climbing a mountain or rowing an ocean for your own satisfaction is never enough. You have to do it so you don’t let people down, to prove people wrong about you, to raise money for charity, because people are depending on you. And you should have several reasons why you want to succeed, and several why you must not fail, and use them to motivate you in your darkest hours, when your brain is constantly telling you that no reward is worth the pain your are going through.