In 2004, Ben Saunders became the youngest person ever to ski solo to the North Pole. In 2013, he set out on another record-breaking expedition, this time to retrace Captain Scott’s ill-fated journey to the South Pole on foot.

Why you should listen

Although most of the planet's surface was mapped long ago, there's still a place for explorers in the modern world. And Ben Saunders' stories of arctic exploration -- as impressive for their technical ingenuity as their derring-do -- are decidedly modern. In 2004, at age 26, he skied solo to the North Pole, updating his blog each day of the trip. Humble and self-effacing, Saunders is an explorer of limits, whether it's how far a human can be pushed physically and psychologically, or how technology works hundreds of miles from civilization. His message is one of inspiration, empowerment and boundless potential.

He urges audiences to consider carefully how to spend the “tiny amount of time we each have on this planet.” Saunders is also a powerful advocate for the natural world. He's seen first-hand the effects of climate change, and his expeditions are raising awareness for sustainable solutions. 

Being the youngest person to ski solo to the North Pole did not satiate Saunders' urge to explore and push the boundaries. In 2008, he attempted to break the speed record for a solo walk to the North Pole; however, his journey was ended abruptly both then and again in 2010 due to equipment failure. From October 2013 to February 2014, he led a two-man team to retrace Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s ill-fated 1,800-mile expedition to the South Pole on foot. He calls this journey the hardest 105 days of his life.

What others say

“Humbly framed as the ambitious undertakings of an ardent athlete, [Ben's treks offer] visceral first-hand accounts of just how much things are changing in the Arctic -- the 'barometer of global climate change.'” —

More news and ideas from Ben Saunders

Live from TED

The hardest 105 days of my life: Ben Saunders at TED2014

March 21, 2014

On October 25, 2013, adventurer Ben Saunders and his teammate Tarka L’Herpiniere set out to complete Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s failed 1912 polar expedition — a four-month, 1,800-mile journey from the edge of Antarctica to the South Pole and back. At the start of the expedition, L’Herpiniere and Saunders each dragged 200 kilograms by sledge, […]

Continue reading
Live from TED

Passion: The speakers in session 10 of TED2014

March 20, 2014

Our passions are what drive us through our lives and our work. What unexpected places can they take us? In this session, seven speakers show the incredible range of answers. Below, the speakers who appeared in this session. Click on a speaker’s name to read a full recap of their talk. Mellody Hobson advocates for financial […]

Continue reading

TED2014 newsmakers: Ben Saunders ends Antarctic trek, Jehane Noujaim releases documentary on Netflix

February 14, 2014

With just over a month until TED2014, themed “The Next Chapter,” this year’s lineup of speakers has been busy making music, writing books and, oh, trekking across Antarctica. Check out speakers who’ve made the news in recent weeks: On Monday morning, Arctic explorer Ben Saunders completed his 1,795-mile, 105-day trek across Antarctica. This is Saunders’ third attempt […]

Continue reading