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« Calculated ambiguity | Main | There must be some misunderstanding »

Fool in chief

I did wonder if applying the "Ship of Fools" tag to Chris Turney and his shipmates wasn't just a bit rude, but take a look at this video, recorded before his departure, in which he talks about the trip. You have to say that Turney does not come over well. And to spend most of the interview discussing the life and death nature of the expedition and the hardships they will face, before revealing that he is taking his wife and family along, is almost too much.

You can see how the trip might end in a shambles.

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Reader Comments (88)

I would have thought 'Ship of fools' is quite mild given the total horlicks the 'expedition' became.

O/T re the Guardian. The paper was the subject of a few comments on WUWT with respect to their increased intolerance of any views other than those they consider acceptable, this was linked to SKS's involvement with the Guardian.

I had an account for over six years and recently I was put on pre mod for a comment on one of Nutter's pieces. After waiting a month or two and finding I was still on pre mod, against their stated moderation policy I closed the account. What a pathetic bunch of big girls blouses they are.

Re a response I had about the quality of the Telegraph of recent have a look at the David Irving PQ17 article, and I quote:

in which seven of the convoy’s 35 merchant ships were lost during a series of heavy enemy daylight attacks which lasted a week

Anyone who actually saw the programme or knows anything of the history of that convoy can see that stinker a mile off.

Jan 5, 2014 at 10:59 AM | Unregistered CommenterSwiss Bob

Everything seems to be a joke to Turney. He doesn't appear to be the sort of person I would want organising and leading a boy scout camping trip to the Lake District, let alone leading a group of students, tourists and reporters to an extremely dangerous environment. Anybody trusting him to be their leader has a very poor judgement.

Jan 5, 2014 at 11:12 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Turney - the joke that just keeps on giving...

Jan 5, 2014 at 11:14 AM | Unregistered CommenterDodgy Geezer

Hmmm... to quote my dearly departed mater..."Scientific my arse".

A pretty incredible video. Science?

Even before setting sail, based on that video, the people approving/funding the trip should have had doubts.

It just has the flavour of smugness of the 10:10 episode, that blew up in their faces also. Just a similar feeling.

If I was a serious scientist who had possibly years of pleading/preparation badly affected by this guy, I would be causing a stink in the polar scientific communities.

Jan 5, 2014 at 11:15 AM | Unregistered CommenterJiminy Cricket

Turney's Turbulent Tours. Not a holiday company I would use.

He looks old enough to be my grandson. How can one so young be called ''Professor''?

I think your Ship of fools poke was mild in comparison to the truth.

Jan 5, 2014 at 11:40 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Marshall

Prof Turney looks a very good tour guide. Always smiling and giggling like a teenager.

What a jolly good prank Biggles. Sicence wot science!

Jan 5, 2014 at 11:40 AM | Unregistered CommenterCharmingQuark

A quest for the holy grail of AGW turned into an insider's frolic to a place infamous for its hazards. The hubris of the leaders of the frolic turned this into a ship of fools.

Jan 5, 2014 at 11:40 AM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

I've been on a few and thoroughly enjoyed them, but if this clown was organising a piss up in a brewery I wouldn't be signing on.

Jan 5, 2014 at 11:46 AM | Registered CommenterGrantB

“Initially there were few applicants, so Chris Turney reburgeoned Ernest Shackleton’s apocryphal [sic] advertisement: ‘Wanted for hazardous journey. Low ages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition assured.’ Almost immediately, his inbox overflowed...”
“In that kind of extreme environment, the smallest mistakes can cascade into a disaster... This is arguably the most important piece of equipment on the whole expedition - forget the science - I’ll have a revolt; specially amongst the Kiwis - this is a portable espresso-making machine”
I didn’t realise how apt the nickname “Christmas Turkey” was. He doesn’t half cackle.

Jan 5, 2014 at 11:48 AM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

I agree with Phillip Bratby, there must be a doctorate for someone on why people invariably laugh on camera. This is a feature of workplace documentaries on TV and is quite annoying at times. The views on Scott and Shackleton are hardly new and can be found in the National Museum of New Zealand in Wellington where Shackleton's rowing boat now resides and a rather scathing account of Scott is also on view.

Jan 5, 2014 at 11:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterTrefor Jones

Turney approved his son to go on the botched Hodgeman islands trip on the 23rd, i.e., the day they got stuck.

Jan 5, 2014 at 11:55 AM | Registered Commentershub

Another article.

Robert Headland, of Cambridge University’s Scott Polar Research Institute, blamed the team for not investing in a ship suitable to the ‘easily predictable’ sea ice.

Mr Headland, who has completed successful missions to where the ship was going, said: ‘The expedition was hopelessly optimistic in trying to carry out this mission on the cheap and has needlessly taken many risks.

Jan 5, 2014 at 11:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

OK, I watched, in horror, about 7 more minutes of video than I can usually stand. His laugh is pathological, unless it's simply embarrassment at being filmed, in which case, why wasn't that bizarre hilarity edited out. And, I know it's just dialect pronunciation, but I'd swear he says 'seance' instead of 'science'.

Jan 5, 2014 at 12:00 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

Trefor: I believe the James Caird is on permanent loan to Dulwich College in London - where Shackleton was a pupil (as is my nephew).

Jan 5, 2014 at 12:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterHarry Passfield

Is it possible to fill the basket of hubris more fully? 'Honor and recognition assured'. Well, he got the recognition part right.

Jan 5, 2014 at 12:06 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

Excellent video, throw in a few scantily clad research assistants popping out of their bikini's and you have the makings of the new Sid James film "Carry on Climate".

Jan 5, 2014 at 12:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterHyperthermania

Clearly a con, as his revised ad (based on Shackleton`s original) and the presence of tourists and his wife and family reveal. Did anyone else notice (c1 minute 29 seconds in) the background of carefully arranged tomes, with Antarctica prominently displayed on the cover, incongruously set along side the solar topi and the binoculars? The UEA must be feeling proud.

Jan 5, 2014 at 12:17 PM | Unregistered Commenteroldtimer

Totally cringeworthy.

Yes, I noticed the tropical helmet too.
I wonder if he took it with him.

Jan 5, 2014 at 12:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterLevelGaze

tropical helmet? Well, he is taking the pith.

Turney. Let n=d.

Jan 5, 2014 at 12:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterRightwinggit

Harry: thanks, it was 2004 when I was there and I was amazed at how anyone could have survived for so long in such a small boat.

Jan 5, 2014 at 12:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterTrefor Jones

Monty Python's Antarctic Circus

Jan 5, 2014 at 12:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterCharmingQuark

This plonker deserves three points on his 'Polar explorers License'
failing that , a fine and a compulsory 'ice awareness course'

Jan 5, 2014 at 12:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterEternalOptimist

Who could forget the Twin Peaks of Kilimanjaro Expedition

Jan 5, 2014 at 1:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan Reed

Don't forget that this was all helped along by the state TV services. Did either the BBC or ABC do any Health and Safety risk analysis. One risk would have smacked them between the eyes, Turdey.

Jan 5, 2014 at 1:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Richards

I wonder if the lad will be missing some term time and what the punishment for the turkey will be. Not to mention missing most of the next term while he helps his dad plant 287,000 trees or whatever it was

Jan 5, 2014 at 1:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterEternalOptimist


Does he have good days too? Or was that one of them?

On this evidence, not a credible figure to ask to post a letter, let alone 'lead' an Antarctic expedition.

Jan 5, 2014 at 1:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

What a grade-A plonker.

I suppose that is the only qualification required to be a "professor" at a Climate Change Research Centre?

Jan 5, 2014 at 1:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterBitter&Twisted

So was it a life and death trip needing the hardiest people to have a chance of surviving or was it so safe young children could be taken? Turney apparently wants it both ways.
He may have a tough time squaring those extremes should anyone ask - social workers for example.

Jan 5, 2014 at 1:27 PM | Unregistered Commenterartwest

Alan Reed

You can see the similarities. Perhaps that is where they got the planning pointers from.

Jan 5, 2014 at 1:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterCharmingQuark

Ross Clark has his second "ship of fools" article in two days on the Speccie's Coffee House blog. Some here may be interested in the subsequent discussion. (Note to Geoff Chambers, Alex Cull and Richard Drake: yes, I'm banging that old drum - but I'm trying to get my message to a new audience.)

Jan 5, 2014 at 1:38 PM | Registered CommenterRobin Guenier

An idle mischievous thought...

What about a crowd funded documentary on Turney's folly?

After the PQ17 documentary - maybe Jeremy Clarkson might ......

Frack Nation seems to be still providing value.

Jan 5, 2014 at 1:56 PM | Registered Commentertomo

Really, it was such a badly produced story that I don't think you can infer very much about Turney from it alone. Mawson would probably have looked like an idiot in Turney's place if this crew had been around to do an inept story on his expedition, back in the day.

Jan 5, 2014 at 2:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterEddy

If ever Martin Durkin was casting about for a new documentary subject, this is it.

Jan 5, 2014 at 2:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterStuck-Record

Quite a nerve mocking Scott's party like that.

I'm guessing Turney's adventure- -had it ever happened- wouldn't have included walking 100s of miles to the South Pole on foot supported only by dogs. And who in his motley entourage would have been volunteering for the Cpt Oates-style sacrifice if it had ever come to it? No one I suspect.

Pygmies laughing at giants.

Jan 5, 2014 at 2:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn W

From the Ship of Fools, by Sebastian Brant (1498),

The Association of Fools, Concealing Truth, Foolish Messengers, Not Following Good Advice, Not Practising What You Preach, Of Foolish Plans, Of Not Avoiding Danger, Of Overestimating One's Fortune, Of Seeking Postponement, Of Useless Death.

Jan 5, 2014 at 2:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterMindert Eiting

I agree with Phillip Bratby, there must be a doctorate for someone on why people invariably laugh on camera (...)
Jan 5, 2014 at 11:50 AM Trefor Jones

Excessive laughter when being interviewed can be seen in court hearings, official enquiries, and job interviews, as well.

To me, it comes across as saying "I don't really feel in command of what I am supposed to be in command of, but my laughter shows you all how relaxed I am, which I hope will dispel any doubt on your part".

Jan 5, 2014 at 2:22 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

The crew probably had better and more learned conversations with the penguins...............................

I think anyone who had decided to spend some time on a boat with this jerk Turney, even if, it was just an afternoon spent line fishing off the coast of Flamborough or Brid' - they certainly would need their heads examining.

But organizing an Antarctic expedition and being cooped up with that loony for all that time, only fellow travellers loonies needed to apply and judging by the vid's taken by that 'ship of fools' the floating loony bin creche was just that.

Think for a minute and consider the poor Russian crew, it must have been murder [did they consider it?] I bet they were crying with relief to see them go.

Jan 5, 2014 at 2:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

The man, Turney, is a complete idiot. Who could possibly consider him to be leadership material; I wouldn't trust my fate to a wimp like him. It is impossible to imagine a man who speaks like a child and who laughs at his own comments as anything other than a embarrassment. If he said 'follow me' I'd go in the opposite direction. And to compare himself to Shackleton is just another example of his immaturity. Shame on him. A Fool indeed, on a ship of fools.

Jan 5, 2014 at 2:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterThe Prangwizard

"...This voyage was supposed to be following in the footsteps of Lawson. We could have associated climate science in the minds of the public and government officials with real explorers and scientists from the past and quadrupled the amount of funding we could get for future projects.

Now we look like a bunch of bumbling pseudo-scientific wankers. .... "

What really happened on the Akademik Shokalskiy

(Link also on BH Discussion)

Jan 5, 2014 at 2:45 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Mr Headland, who has completed successful missions to where the ship was going, said: ‘The expedition was hopelessly optimistic in trying to carry out this mission on the cheap and has needlessly taken many risks.

Global warmers? Hopelessly optimistic? Hardly. Optionally blind or deaf, certainly. Naive and ignorant, probably. Politically motivated, quite possibly. But many in the media make a living from undiluted environmental pessimism.

Jan 5, 2014 at 2:49 PM | Unregistered Commentermichaelhart

For some details of the escapade see


Jan 5, 2014 at 2:56 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

If anyone is in need of some mild amusement please go to the Telegraph and see the updated article on PQ17. How they can change it and still get the numbers so hopelessly wrong goes completely over my head, I even gave them the right numbers in my original comment, now updated (it won't last long). I think they are taking the pith.

Jan 5, 2014 at 3:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterSwiss Bob

Turney set on a modern day quest. A secular one searching for the holy relics of AGW. His character led to the quest becoming a dangerous farce.

Jan 5, 2014 at 3:16 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

Consider through the retrospect-o-scope how this video and all of the pre-programmed Guardian/BBC propaganda material would have looked had this trip 'succeeded', i.e., went off without a glitch. The whole thing would have blended into one large slurpy paste of tourism, adventurism and global warming alarmism.

Jan 5, 2014 at 3:18 PM | Registered Commentershub

Notice how Turney took great delight in belittling the polar explorations from the past.Stories of Cannibalism and Arctic Madness.

Just proved Turney,s own smug incompetence.

His son may of had the right idea suspecting miles of open ocean.Most of it Frozen.

The boy can go back to his nice warm bedroom in the suburbs and get back to GTA 5 on his PlayStation.
He can Tweet that to all the Schoolkids instead.

Jan 5, 2014 at 3:43 PM | Unregistered Commenterjamspid

As has been commented on, from all I've read so far, I get a general feeling that a lot of the people involved in this are just not very likable. Academia in general just seems so far detached to real life now, that it really seems they are sucking up as much grant money as they can until it all goes pop. Unfortunately real life seems similar with the banksters doing the same kind of thing and a thin veil of 'private enterprise'.

Jan 5, 2014 at 4:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterRob Burton

You can see the appeal of climate alarmism for such a buffoon. How much reinforcement has the grossly irresponsible 'climate movement' had from people like him who spotted an opportunity for vainglorious attention-seeking? He was not fit to follow in Mawson's footsteps. Let us hope the PR disaster which he created for the 'movement' will encourage a good many more people to take a closer look at it with a growing sense that it too lacks substance and sense.

Jan 5, 2014 at 4:02 PM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

Here's some information about Carbonscape describing the MULTI-BILLION dollar opportunity
from making microwave charcoal from waste biomass.

Then here's a Guardian piece by Alok Jha banging the Carbonscape drum. The last three
paragraphs are telling.

And here's Turney in Sydney Morning Herald video "Carbon tax and you" (he's at 2:09)

Jan 5, 2014 at 4:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterAndy

Jo Nova wonders how this debacle can be compared with Climategate:

</>Caldwell thinks this is a setback almost on par with ClimateGate, which tells us how oddly important this farce is, but also something depressing about how commentators judge scientific credibility. The sea-ice saga of the wannabee Mawsons is a PR disaster, but even skeptics are not pretending this has much to do with climate science. ClimateGate was a scientific disaster unparalleled – we saw that the processes of science itself at the centre of the debate were corrupted, and the leading scientists were displayed at their worst. The saga of the Akademik Sholaskiy is a mere symptom of creative ways to waste money on immature, misguided self-aggrandizing adventure. Though as a PR stunt, skeptics could not possibly have come up with a better way to highlight the growing sea-ice around Antarctica that the models never predicted; nor to display the lack of pragmatic skill modern climate science has attained.

There is the battle for good science, and then there is the propaganda war, two completely separate areas but I would hazard equally important, no wonder the MSM almost without exception call it a tourist trip.

Jan 5, 2014 at 4:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterSwiss Bob

Always been a bit suspicious of people who laugh at nothing.

Jan 5, 2014 at 5:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterPat K

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