1998 Associate Laureate, Exploration
United Kingdom, Born 1964
Alexander Stannus’ voyage is no mere stunt. During a two-year transit of more than 60 bodies of water in 32 countries, Stannus and his six companions will offer to share their experiences, discoveries and scientific observations "live" via satellite and Internet with eight million schoolchildren across the United Kingdom. Throughout the voyage, schoolchildren will be in direct contact with the team and will be able to ask questions about the various regions the members are exploring.
Around the World
Given sufficient funds, River 2000 will begin on December 1, 1998, at the prime meridian in Greenwich, England. Stannus and his teammates will head downriver along the Thames, emerging in the English Channel, thence to the North Sea, and enter Europe through the mouth of the Rhine at Rotterdam. Over the next 24 months they will traverse Europe via the Main and Danube Rivers, cross Asia from the Black Sea to Vladivostok, transit North and South America from the Yukon to Argentina, then board ship for Africa on one of the few ocean links along the route. They will span Africa north-eastward from the Congo to the Nile, then retrace their route westward across Europe, reaching Greenwich once more on New Year’s Eve of the year 2000, thus completing an historic circuit — appropriately named River 2000.
Change of Direction
At first glance, Stannus appears an unlikely candidate to command a globe-girdling expedition. He is currently a dispatch controller for a London courier service and has held a wide spectrum of jobs ranging from investment counsellor to professional shepherd. The former position, however, trained him in the vital expedition field of fund-raising, and the latter imbued him with a fierce devotion to the environment. Beginning in 1994 he trained himself as a riverman and boat-handler, and in 1997 he conducted a gruelling test run with local craft down the treacherous rivers of Guyana in equatorial South America.
For River 2000 team members, he recruited a variety of experts, all with river-running experience. A Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, Stannus hopes to include a local team member from each country as the expedition passes through. Such skill and determination have earned Stannus the enthusiastic support of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), the International Geographic Union, the British Council, and a dozen other educational and scientific organisations, as well as an Associate Laureate award in the 1998 Rolex Awards for Enterprise.
"We’re especially interested in children between the ages of 5 and 16," Stannus explains, "and one of the most important elements in their future is the world’s supply of fresh water. There is only so much of it, and there will never be any more. How our children learn to conserve and protect it will have enormous impact on their future."
One unique feature of the River 2000 educational programme is the concept of "twinning" among schools in various countries. "We’re developing a network for partnership, or twinning, that will put schools in touch with each other to share the data we’ll be transmitting constantly," Stannus says. "It’s our hope that the programme will inspire lasting cultural interchange among the schools"
Out of a projected budget of £1.25 million, Stannus has allocated nearly a third to education and to acquisition and management of the website. Though the team has far to go to reach its budget, support and encouragement continue to pour in from many quarters. Newspapers and television networks in the countries to be visited have expressed interest, and several foreign corporations along the route have pledged assistance in the form of goods and services. If funding falls short, Stannus will postpone departure for a year.
Perhaps the most reassuring offer of support comes from two notably austere sources — the Thames River Police and the Port of London Authority. Both have agreed to cooperate in a welcome-home celebration for River 2000 when the team reaches London and Greenwich. "They must think we’re going to make it," says Alex Stannus with a smile.
So does at least one seasoned veteran in the field of exploration. Sir Ranulph Fiennes, the noted British polar explorer and a patron of the voyage, says: "The River 2000 expedition is setting out to achieve an extremely ambitious journey. The scale of the project, the great diversity of the environments and cultures to be encountered, coupled with the physical endurance that will be demanded of the team members, all add up to a unique challenge. River 2000 is an exciting and special venture that I am pleased to support."
Published in 1998