Prior to 1997 Jan had never stepped into a rowing boat. Yet when her son Daniel asked her to row 3,044 nautical miles across the Atlantic Ocean with him, she didn’t hesitate to seize the opportunity ‘Seize the Day’, Carpe Diem. They successfully took part in the world’s first Atlantic Rowing Race; completing the journey from Tenerife to Barbados in a 23 foot wooden boat in 101 days.
Her prize? Two Guinness World Records – one for the first mother and son team to row an ocean and one for being the oldest person at the time to row an ocean – and an amazing sense of accomplishment. (The second ‘oldest’ record was relinquished to a friend a couple of years later but you cannot beat FIRST!)
2007 – Trekking to a pole
Even a decade on from rowing an ocean, Jan hadn’t lost her appetite for adventure and in 2007 she convinced Daniel to trek to the North Pole with her. The reunited team, along with Richard Profit a friend of Dan’s, walked and skied 350 nautical miles from Resolute Bay to the Magnetic North Pole, whilst also hauling all their equipment on sledges. By reaching the Pole, Jan and Daniel got their second world record for being the first mother and son team to reach any Pole by foot. Jan regained her third record; the oldest woman to reach the Magnetic North Pole.
During their trek they faced extremely challenging conditions, including polar bears, temperatures as low as -68 degrees Celsius, the worst ice conditions in 40 years, miles of rubble fields (some as high as 20ft), and a near catastrophic tent fire. Guinness World Records were so impressed by their achievement that the printing of the 2008 record book was delayed so that they could be included.
2008 – One pole wasn’t enough
Less than 12 months after her world record setting adventure to the Magnetic North Pole, Jan was approached by top explorer David Hempleman-Adams to join his expedition to the Geographic North Pole. Their expedition aimed to highlight the effects of climate change on ice levels in the Artic. They successfully reached the Pole, adding another impressive feat to Jan’s ever growing list of exploits. A highlight of the trip was challenging the an Indian Navy expedition to a ‘friendly’ game of cricket at 90 degrees North.
2009 – Kilimanjaro
In 2009 Jan was off on her adventures again, this time attempting to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. Much to her disappointment she was robbed of making it to the summit by altitude sickness. Far from seeing the expedition as a failure, Jan considers it an amazing learning experience. Like her climbing partner told her, “the mountain will be here next year.”
2014 – Everest Base Camp
Jan’s trek to Mount Everest Base Camp made the news in 2014 when she narrowly avoided a deadly avalanche. Texting her husband to explain she was safe, Jan described the experience as “sobering” having left Base Camp just as it started to snow. The avalanche tragically took the lives of 13 guides.
2017 – The South Pole beckons!
Jan’s already started planning her next expedition – this time to the South Pole where she hopes to pick up her 4th Guinness World Record in time for her 73rd birthday!