Telegraph, BBC, and Independent geography FAIL: "Row to the Pole" never made it to the "North Pole" – they are 790 miles short

UPDATE: BBC (and now the Independent) commit the same FAIL. See below.

More “Row to the Pole” nonsense writ large:

Ummmm…no, Mr. Hough, the Telegraph’s headline and story are simply wrong. You are a victim of spin and/or a failed geography lesson.

First congratulations, to the RttP team for reaching their destination, which is not a pole of any kind, much less the actual “North Pole”. I didn’t think they would make it.

As I explained before the trip even started, there’s no “pole” achievement here, not even close. They are 738 KM short of the actual magnetic pole. The 1996 magnetic pole doesn’t exist there anymore and thus can’t be a pole of any kind.

The Telegraph article says:

The successful trip to the Pole, described as the “greatest ocean rows of all time”, was only possible because of more seasonal ice-melt in the Arctic that has opened the waters up.

No mention of the fact that they aren’t even close. The actual North pole is 790 miles away:

The FAIL is strong with this one. h/t to reader “Angry Exile”

And the BBC is in on the act of shoddy journalism too:

Kitefreak says:

August 26, 2011 at 12:20 am

BBC reporting that the Pultney rowing expedition has reached “the north pole”. Reported on Radio Scotland at 8am (main news bulletin) and on the news website

Absolutely no mention on the radio or the website that it’s the magnetic north pole from ’96, no, they just say the folks have rowed TO THE NORTH POLE.

Pure propaganda.

UPDATE: The BBC commits the same FAIL here:

What a bunch of liars.

UPDATE2: The load of porkies continues…now the Independent repeats the lie.


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Mustn’t dilute the message with facts now, must we.


There was too much ice for them to actually row to their arbitrary destination, they had to drag their boats across the ice.


Talk about being poles apart 😉

Geographical ignorance knows no bounds. Distortions abound.

Richard Abbott

Did they happen to report that they had seen father Christmas as I always understood that he resided at the North Pole?

Dr T G Watkins

Congratulations to the rowers, a mighty achievement even though they are a long way from the m. pole. Will they ‘fess up to the fact on return? Typical sloppy UK reporting.
Do they intend rowing back or are they to be airlifted out before the nasty weather starts?

j fisk

What a joke, ok they rowed north, had a fun adventure but in no way went to the “North Pole”
Congrats for getting funding for this adventure and succeding in your goal, but to dress this as proof of global warming is a lie on the scale of the hocky stick!

Ken Hall

So they had to drag that boat across sections of ice, which means that they did not row all the way, they walked for some of it on ice… and where they ended up was not the North Pole, nor the current magnetic North Pole, So it was not a Row to the pole in any way, shape or form.




“trust our journalist, with the highest integrity” …./sarc off…

Leon Brozyna

I don’t know what it is they’re all shoveling, but it sure isn’t white.

Lord Beaverbrook

‘The father-of-two captained the team that broke the London to Paris rowing record in 1999 and walked unsupported to the North Pole in 1992’
Speaking by satellite phone the Dumfries-born adventurer and motivational speaker added:
” Arrgh, back in ’92 ah dropped me wallet but ah cudney find it, so me ‘n’ me mates went back far another loook!”
/ misquote

Alex the skeptic

The Telegraph photo produced above shows ice in the background, lots of it and it looks old thick ice. Couldn’t the group produce a photo of them rowing in a boat in a sea with at least a few ice floes, if not a clear blue sea totally devoid of ice? Where is the ice-free Arctic ocean they rowed in?


You must always leave out information that would only confuse people. It is important to do what is necessary to achieve the proper outcome. %^P

Pamela Gray

It’s the new kind of air brush don’t ya know. If Julia Roberts can look flawless (and lifeless by the way) with an air brush on the digital photo, by gawd AGW can be air brushed too…and thus look equally lifeless.

Chris D.

As Kate would say – time to juxtapose:
“after the ice caps melted”
“sea level hits a pothole”

Danny V.

The comments button is conspicuous in its absence in this Aug. 26th Telegraph article. The July 30th article has the comments button activated. Note the comments posted.

Typical, just typical.


I heard a satellite phone interview on the BBC Radio 4 Today program in which the normally well-informed and probing interviewer was entirely bamboozled. Sadly I believe he was deliberately misled by the actual rowers and not just the promoters of the event. It is sad that people who have actually accomplished something genuinely remarkable feel the need to lie, or at least connive at a lie to make it seem even more remarkable. Why? Are there really no honorable people left? Are there no modest people left? The whole business leaves a vile taste.

David, UK

Pure propaganda.
Well, duh. That was the whole point of this exercise from the beginning, and there was never any shortage of alarmist journalists waiting to report it with glee.


You can pass messages on to the Telegraph here:
Misleading, yes, factually incorrect yes, blatant propoganda probably…..

John B (UK)

Never let the facts stand in the way of a good story……….

Northern California Bureaucrat

In all fairness, this is the same “North Pole” that Jeremy Clarkson and James May drove to on Top Gear’s Polar Special.

Mike McMillan

“…in a journey that encountered polar bears, collisions with icebergs, and biting seals.”
How do you collide with an iceberg if you’re rowing?
Didn’t see it?
You’d think they could have swerved to miss it.
And doing it more than once?

Kelvin Vaughan

What time does the earth cross the moons orbit as I want to walk to the moon.

Jean Demesure

Isn’t there a GB media ethics commission or something ?

Paul Westhaver

They may have well stayed home and had a booze fueled party celebrating that they “aspired” to row to the pole in view of their 19th century accomplishment with 21st century technology.
Shame on their public relations abuse of the facts.
When somebody actually achieves the feat, rows to the pole, which likely was done already 1000 years ago by some unsung Norse hero who paid no never mind to it, then this failed event will be unwound for the fraud that it is.
Watch our so called “press” lie all about this.


I suppose the truth is a bit boring.
“We rowed to an island!”…..
er? Okay….
” it used to be a pole, you know!”…..
er, righto……
” we sorta didn’t row all the way though, we kinda dragged it a ways…..”
“It was really hard work….”
Zzzz zzz zzz……

chris b

Why not counter with a “Skate from London to New York” to warn of the coming Ice Age. With similar spin, and the use of some ice arenas along the way, it would be easy.
Maybe CCM or Bauer would be interested in sponsoring?


Actually, the “MOOT” is stronger than the “FAIL”.
With the area that they traversed being open in the summer with large areas of sea-ice in the arctic, they might as well rowed to the equator. The same arctic area was open 32 years ago, so I would not even congratulate these rowing idiots.

Canada has some really good false advertising laws — maybe we can throw those whiskey merchants in the clink for a few days or months… I have asked for the reporter to be put on a watch list — we’re waiting. I can see him behind bars now…

They are moving quite slow right now. shows a speed of 0.03 knots to about 0.12 knots. If they are rowing then they are having a lot of ice around them or they are pulling the boat over the ice. I bet on pulling!
Could someone save them. They are for sure in trouble. Send an icebreaker!
It looks like they are trying to find open water or trying to get on land.


And the sun is shining at the North pole? What date was that picture taken?

Doug in Seattle

If the purpose of this publicity stunt was to sell whiskey. I’d say they probably succeeded. Beyond that I do not see this achieving much. That said, it still would have been fun to participate.


Yep – usual sloppy journalism.
Not only did they not ‘row’ a lot of the way – the boat was equipped with skids to enable it to be dragged like a sled – but it was the ‘magnetic’ Pole which they reached – which keeps moving anyway.
Looking at the satellite-generated graphs from the varous scientific organisations which monitor it, the sea ice extent seems not a lot different this year from any other year – but then no story like this would be complete without the ‘we couldn’t have done it without climate change’ phrase….


I go to my local Barbour every month for a haircut. He has a barbour-pole outside his place, perhaps I should alert the BBC and they can write a story saying people can now drive to the ‘pole’ because of Anthropogenic climate change.

Dave Johnson

At least the BBC website now says it was the 1996 magnetic pole they reached. But no context, so most folk will probably have no idea how far away it from today’s magnetic pole and will likley assume it’s near to the real pole as well.

John F. Hultquist

Seems to me most of the folks here are missing the point.
This trip was an ad-venture for Old Pulteney.
It seems to have been very successful. I only wonder what this will do to sales and does the company have enough to meet demand. Next question: what will be their next stunt?


Reminds me of the Tao of Pooh. Pooh sets out for the North Pole, and finds a pole lying on the ground which becomes the “North Pole”.


The BBC article now begins:
“A rowing expedition has reached the 1996 location of the magnetic North Pole in a bid to highlight the effect of climate change in the region.”

Green Sand

Prior to the expedition Mr Wishart had explained the reasons behind undertaking the challenge.
“It is only possible because of the melting ice in the polar regions,” he said.
“Whether this is cyclical, whether this is because we are pumping too much CO2 into the atmosphere, it is happening nonetheless.
“We want to demonstrate to people there’s a problem up there.”
Well, if “this is cyclical” why is there “a problem up there”?
Also it would have been a lot quicker, cheaper and easier in a rib, which again would “only possible because of the melting ice in the polar regions”. But ain’t got the kudos I suppose.

Roger Longstaff

At least the BBC website got it right – for once!
“A rowing expedition has reached the 1996 location of the magnetic North Pole in a bid to highlight the effect of climate change in the region”


“Remarkably, the final two miles was the first and only ice blockage which they had to trek across.”
— from their website. They don’t say whether this was because they turned back when they met other icefields earlier.
Also, they do admit that it was the 1996 magnetic pole on their website.

Stevo lane

I walked to The South Pole once in a t-shirt and shorts …. Mind you it was “The South Pole” pub in County Kerry, Ireland. The beer was cold.


‘Mark Twain’: “If you don’t read the newspaper, you are uninformed. If you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed”.


Jit says:
August 26, 2011 at 9:03 am
“Also, they do admit that it was the 1996 magnetic pole on their website.”
Why didn’t they tell the Telegraph?

Pete in Cumbria UK

The Failograph cannot even find a new picture of The Intrepid Ones – they’ve re-use the same picture from Jul 30 when this ‘adventure’ commenced.
I would venture that nothing more than a snow machine in a (otherwise) disused North London warehouse was employed here. Must further assume that Titter and Boogle realised the fraud ages ago and stopped their accounts, hence the old photo


The story reminds me of Lewis Carroll’s “The Hunting of the Snark’. The hunting party uses a map of the Oceans, which is a blank sheet of paper. Some lines from the poem:
“What’s the good of Mercator’s North Poles and Equators,
Tropics, Zones and Meridian Lines?”
So the Bellman would cry: and the crew would reply,
“They are merely conventional signs!”


If their purpose was to sell Whiskey, I for one would never buy that brand again. Not that I am a whiskey drinker. I am all for unusual adventures, but this one was just pure bs crap. They banned me from posting on their facebook page. I never said anything bad.

Dave Springer

Moving the goalposts.
800 miles.