Whether it’s a 4,000 round trip across the Antarctic or a camel ride through the Australian desert, Geoff Somers is a modern day explorer to the core, but getting him to brag about his exploits is a much harder challenge. Katherine MacAlister cajoles the adventurer into telling her about it, before his visit to Chipping Norton Theatre.

Exploring was a lifeline for Geoff Somers. Having failed his exams at school, a stint at an outdoor activity centre gave him a new lease of life.

“One of the instructors showed me some slides of a husky dog-led trip to the Antarctic and I just thought ‘I’ve got to go there.’ That was it for me.” the 60 year-old remembers.

A three-year posting to Antarctica followed, where Geoff, right, acted as a guide to the scientists on one of the 27 bases, and the die was cast.

“When I left I vowed I’d never go back because the conditions are brutal, and getting there was so complicated,” he tells me.

“But I’ve been back 15 times since then,” Geoff laughs. “I just can’t seem to stay away.”

Geoff Somers MBE is now one of the world’s most accomplished Polar travellers.

He has completed several ‘firsts’ including, in 1988, the then longest unsupported Arctic journey, traversing south to the north of the Greenland Ice Cap; and in 1990 the first and only traverse of the entire Antarctic Continent by its greatest axis – a seven month, near 4,000 mile journey; as well as guiding the first commercial expedition to the Magnetic North Pole and in 1999 the first self supported commercial expedition skiing to the South Pole.

So come on Geoff, tell us about the life-threatening situations you’ve found yourself in. “Well I’m sure they are only as dangerous as getting into your car and driving to work,” he says calmly. Yes, but not nearly so exciting.

“Well my neighbour slipped on the ice outside her house and broke her hip,” he points out. OK, but tell me about your most terrifying situation.

“In the Arctic I buried one of the food caches in the wrong place so when our expedition of six arrived in the designated place, hungry and tired, we had no food, which could have been fatal.

“Luckily we’d packed enough for emergencies and had to survive on that until we got to the next cache, so you learn from your mistakes,” he says.

“But you see every contemporary explorer in the world would have been dead had it not been for modern technology. Scott had none of these,” he says. “He had to use a ship and his expedition took two years.”

Somer’s fascination with Scott is easy to understand, and the subject of his discussion at Chipping Norton Theatre next Thursday. And perhaps his hero’s death has also taught him a lesson.

“I’m too old now to pull heavy sledges and endure such freezing conditions, so I’ve set my sights on some of the world’s other remote environments, namely in Australia and Malaysia.

“I’ve always been interested in wildernesses and how people live there. But then I’ve always enjoyed the great outdoors, though not soaring from the rafters like Tarzan – I’m as happy with a flower book as an ice pick,” he says.

So is the desert less dangerous then?

“There was the time when I go lost in the desert in Australia,” he explains.

“You let your camels graze overnight and then have to find them in the morning. When I turned around I had no idea where camp was because the sand stretched away in every direction, and although I’d been exploring for 20 years, panic set in and I was terrified.”

So he IS a real man underneath it all!

“Actually I’ve always believed that the more wimpy you are the better you’ll survive. You don’t have to be a roughy-toughy to enjoy yourself. Wimps live far longer,” and then he pauses. “As for me, I think I’ve got eight or nine lives and the next one is going to get me....”

* Geoff Somers talk Scott – Hero or Loser? will take place at Chipping Norton Theatre, Spring Street, Chipping Norton on Thursday, February 3. Box office on 01608 642350.