Published: 00:00, 06 February 2015
| Updated: 16:27, 06 February 2015
A former Royal Marine in Deal is determined to help a fellow former ‘bootneck’ raise funds to complete a challenge that few explorers have managed – a quest to reach the Northern Pole of Inaccessibility.
Robert Bale, of Forelands Square, Deal, first met Richard Steven, originally from Norwich, in the RMA Club in Walmer on October 13 last year.
They started chatting and it was not long before Mr Steven opened up about his troubled life.
Having joined the Royal Marines in 1990, aged 20, and medically discharged in 1999, Mr Steven emigrated to New Zealand with his new wife, Sally.
They founded an alpaca farm in Auckland and made a living looking after severely disabled adults. They also started designing buildings.
Together, in 2008, they moved to Southern Alps, north west of Christchurch, to renovate and design a 10-acre property.
“While doing this we built our dream home on another 10 acres,” Mr Steven said.
Along with their 22 alpacas, they had three dogs, three cats and a chinchilla. Life was good.
In May 2010, Mr Steven started working for an urban search and rescue team.
Less than a year later the city was hit by a 6.3 magnitude earthquake, killing 185 and injuring almost 2,000.
After 13 days of gruelling work searching for survivors Mr Steven fell six feet onto concrete onto his elbow, damaging the discs in his back, and ending up virtually unable to walk.
He developed cellulitis from his knuckles to his shoulder and was in hospital on a drip.
Shortly after, Mr Steven and his wife separated.
Taking a friend’s advice, Mr Steven returned home to the UK in 2011, leaving behind everything he had established, including his pets, which he loved dearly.
Having been abandoned by his family and with no money he moved into a homeless shelter in Norwich, finding the simplest task, like going to the shop, a challenge.
By now, he had been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder but was still being refused help from numerous charities.
However, it was an invitation to a garden party at Buckingham Palace to honour those who had worked for the Red Cross which inspired him to re-evaluate his life.
From then, he set himself his first challenge – riding on a 1930s police-issue Humber bicycle, fitted with a Cyclemaster small magic wheel engine, from Land’s End to John O’Groats. It took him 54 days.
In October 2014 he set off on another challenge, the Great British Fish And Chip Run, a 4,500-mile mission on a diesel Royal Enfield motorcycle he had borrowed.
He circumnavigated the coast of mainland Britain on the rare motorbike, using chip fat for fuel and sleeping rough.
It was during this challenge, when passing through Deal and Walmer, that he met Mr Bale.
Mr Bale said: “I gave him a bed for the night, food and money to see him on his way.
“He’s been a companion ever since. I’ve got three children and he’s my adopted fourth.”
Mr Steven is now in Rovaniemi, the capital of Lapland, having travelled there solo on a V-Max Yamaha motorbike in December, beating off freezing temperatures and frostbite, to await his next challenge.
Having put on hold the idea of travelling from Ellesmere Island, Canada, via the North Pole, to Greenland’s Kap Morris Jesup on snowmobile, because alone it would be too extreme and too dangerous, he has discovered another extreme challenge which has taken his fancy.
It is a quest to reach the Northern Pole of Inaccessibility, often referred to as the hardest to reach and most distant geographical point from the coastline.
Mr Steven would not be alone of this adventure. He would do it alongside a team of 28 people including polar explorer Jim McNeill, who is calling it “The Last True World First”.
The quest would not only be a challenge but would also be for scientific purposes. Of all the places on the surface of the earth, few are as hard to reach as this.
The destination is a tantalising target for explorers, believed to have only been reached by late British adventurer Wally Herbert, by dogsled in 1968.
To be one of the 28, Mr Steven will have to undergo basic and advanced polar training, which together will cost £3,000.
He said: “I lost everything. I did rescue work in New Zealand and came back injured. I struggle every day but something extreme like this gives me a purpose.
“I would love to make a difference in this world.
“This to me is the pinnacle of polar adventure.”
Mr Bale said: “He’s proven to society that one individual with no money can do things and he’s doing it. It’s unbelievable.”
Richard raises money for the British Red Cross Society and the Royal British Legion Riders Branch.
To sponsor him, contact Robert Bale on 07846 457728.