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Expedition: a look at Steve Backshall's latest book

In his latest book, one adventurer sets off to chart how the world’s furthest-flung corners offer unbridled — and perilous — adventures.

Published 20 Sept 2019, 06:00 BST, Updated 23 Jul 2021, 12:48 BST
Steve Backshall
Steve Backshall

It’s not often a book’s protagonist dices with death in uncharted Bhutanese waters, but award-winning presenter and naturalist Steve Backshall does exactly that in his most recent tome — and then some.

Accompanied by a television series on BBC Two (four parts) and Dave (10 parts) this year, Expedition is an itinerary of death-defying challenges that sees Backshall travel to some of the remotest and most perilous destinations on the planet in a fistful of expedition firsts. It’s the fruit of years of planning and dreaming — Backshall has been plotting these remote, inaccessible locations in an ambitious wishlist for two decades.

And remote these spots are. None of them, Backshall says, can be found on Google Maps and some couldn’t even be seen in high-resolution satellite imagery. Divided into chapters that read like realms of a dark fantasy world — Desert Fortress, Ghost River, Forgotten Forest — the book charts Backshall and his team’s pursuit of unadulterated adventure, including kayaking the world’s largest fjord in Greenland; delving into Mexico’s dark and mysterious Mayan underworld; tackling piranhas in Suriname; and venturing deep into Omani desert canyons where Backshall and co were pushed to their absolute limits.

The book speaks loud and clear to the inner explorer in each of us, but it’s the starkly human element that makes Expedition so compelling. Backshall is frank about the toll his adventures take on the mind as well as the body, the existential questions they pose and the tugging of heartstrings of leaving a young family.

One clear message of Expedition, however, is that even in these modern times, the age of discovery isn’t over. In fact, Backshall believes we’re going boldly into a new age of discovery, where the likes of space-age technology and satellites have breathed life into the expeditions of old, driving a desire to better understand and share information about our planet’s most distant, undiscovered places.

Told with unflinching honesty — and a hearty dose of old-school exploration — it’s a read that will leave you pondering those distant, undiscovered places for yourself.

Expedition, by Steve Backshall, is published by BBC Books. RRP: £20. 

Published in the Adventure guide, distributed with the October 2019 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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