Man on ‘frankly nutty’ Arctic adventure freezes to death

By James Meikle, The Guardian
Wednesday, May 1, 2013 8:50 EDT
google plus icon
Philip Goodeve-Docker (Facebook)
  • Print Friendly and PDF
  • Email this page

Philip Goodeve-Docker was trekking across Greenland ice cap with two friends when group got into trouble

A British man who had described his planned trek with two friends across part of the Greenland ice sheet as a “frankly nutty adventure” died after their tent was reporedly blown away in a snowstorm early into the 400-mile expedition.

The trio were rescued by local authorities but Philip Goodeve-Docker had died, said the Foreign Office. The two other Britons were recovering in hospital. They are thought to be suffering from frostbite and shock.

Goodeve-Docker, a comedy promoter, was said to be a “rookie to the Arctic” by one of his companions before the trip. He died on Sunday, according to a message from his family on his Facebook page. He had trained for the expedition – up to 600km across what he called “one of the most dazzling, beautiful, yet barren and deadly landscapes in the world” – by dragging tyres near his home in Ealing, west London.

The team included another “arctic virgin” Andy Norman from Berkshire, who was said on his website to have recovered from being in a critical condition, and Roan Hackney, who had completed several Arctic expeditions.

The men who were dragging their own supplies – up to 135kg on individual “pulks” or sleds – but got into difficulties two days and 120 miles into the expedition when they were engulfed by a severe snowstorm which blew away their tent.

According to local police, they radioed for help on Friday but rescuers could not reach their position until early on Saturday morning and when they arrived Goodeve-Docker was already dead.

Chief Inspector Paul Pitersen of the Greenland Police said the severe storm with strong winds and snow was known as a “Piteraq”. “It is quite rare but can happen at this time of year on the glacier. Their tent was blown partially away and they were exposed.

“One of the men said they thought Goodeve-Docker had probably died during the night. The other men are OK and are on their way back to the UK.

“They were very unlucky. They were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Goodeve-Docker, who ran the Purple Cactus agency, had written on his JustGiving fundraising webpage the trip could take up to 35 days and was “one of the great polar challenges”.

He had added: “We face such dangers as polar bears (not cute and cuddly), crevasses up to 500 metres deep, polar winds, temperatures of 5C to -50C, plus the horror of three men with one tent and no washing.”

Supporters were still donating money to Goodeve-Docker’s cause ,The Queen’s Nursing Institute (QNI), on Wednesday morning by which time the total had passed £6,000.

The family message said: “We wanted to let everyone know that on Sunday morning we had a phone call to confirm that Philip sadly died.

“To our son, brother and friend, we are so glad that you were on your adventure and expedition that you had wanted to do for so long. You will be unbelievably missed and your memory cherished. xx”

A spokeswoman for the Foreign Office said they were alerted to the situation on Sunday.

“We are aware that British nationals were in difficulty during an expedition in Greenland and have been rescued by the authorities,” she said. “Sadly one of the men, Philip Goodeve-Docker, died.

“The two other British nationals are in hospital. We are providing consular assistance to their families at this time.”

Goodeve-Docker had said that “part of my reasons for this frankly nutty adventure” was his grandfather Patrick Pirie-Gordon who had died two years ago and had been treasurer and honorary vice-president of the Royal Geographical Society, which helps fund polar exploration, and treasurer of the QNI.

“He was intensely passionate about both these institutions. It gave me added incentive to say yes to the expedition and, because of their fantastic work in nursing and helping those in need at home, to do my part for QNI. They really do fantastic work,” said Goodeve-Docker before leaving for Greenland. “So please dig deep and donate now. All the support will be great incentive to come back in one piece.

“I’m going back outside to stumble around with tyres again … wish me luck!”

On his website about the expedition, Norman said Goodeve-Docker was “completely new to the Arctic and indeed this adventure lark” but had been “training furiously”. The group were being supported and monitored during the trip from the UK, managed by a world leader in managing Greenland expeditions.

In a tribute on Goodeve-Docker’s Facebook page, Greg Ware wrote: “Phil was one of the nicest, friendliest, funniest and most genuine human beings I have had the pleasure of knowing. No matter how bad things were going he would always be able to put a smile on his face and make a joke of the situation and make everyone around him feel happy. His never say never attitude and determination to succeed made him someone everyone wanted to know.”

Another message, from Abbey Bloom, said: “His energy, lust for life and enthusiasm are something that will always stay with me. When you were in his company almost anything felt possible. Rest in peace, Phil. You were a real gentleman, a lovely person and it was a total joy to have got to know you over these past few years.”

© Guardian News and Media 2013

[Philip Goodeve-Docker photo via Facebook]

By commenting, you agree to our terms of service
and to abide by our commenting policy.