Sir Ranulph Twistleton-Wykeham Fiennes, cousin to Joe Fiennes and his siblings, was born in March 1944. He spent part of his childhood in South Africa. The family returned to England when he was 12 years old, and he was educated at Eton.

He followed his late father's footsteps into the Royal Scots Greys before switching to the elite SAS regiment, where he became the youngest captain in the British army. He spent 8 years in the army, before he was dismissed following a prank in which he blew up the set of the movie Doctor Doolittle and moved to the Middle East as a member of the Sultan of Oman's forces.

He married Virginia Pepper, known as Ginny, in September 1970, whom he met when she was 9 and he was 12.

Since 1969 he has led several major expeditions, including the Transglobe Expedition - the first surface journey around the world's polar axis, which lasted three years (1979-82) - and the PUNS Expeditions, which gained the Furthest North Unsupported record in 1986 and again in 1990.

He went up the White Nile in a hovercraft in 1969, led an expedition into Jostedalsbre Glacier in 1970 and led another into British Columbia's Headless Valley in 1971.

In 1983 Sir Ranulph was awarded an honorary doctorate of science by Loughborough University and the Explorer's Club of New York Gold Metal. The following year he received the Founder's Medal of the Royal Geographical Society and the Polar Medal with Bar from the Queen.

After numerous attempts he found the Lost City of Ubar in Oman in 1992, his biggest expeditional success so far.

In 1993 he and Dr. Mike Stroud became the first to cross the Antarctic continent unassisted.

In the same year he was awarded the Order of the British Empire for "human endeavour and charitable services." He is also holder of the Livingstone Gold Medal.

His wife accompanied him on six major expeditions and was the first woman to be awarded the Polar Medal, presented to her by the Queen.

The Guinness Book of Records hails him as "the world's greatest living explorer".

While not exploring, he writes books about his adventures and about fitness:

Where Soldiers fear to Tread
A Talent for Trouble
Ice Fall in Norway
Hell on Ice
Bothie The Polar Dog: the dog who went to both poles with the Transglobe
The Headless Valley
To The Ends of the Earth (1983)
Living Dangerously (autobiography 1987)
The Feather Man (1991)
Atlantis of the Sands: The Search for the Lost City of Ubar (1992)
Mind over Matter: The Epic Crossing of the Antarctic Continent (1995)
The Sett (1996)
From Pole to Pole (1998)
Discovery Road (1998, co-authors: Tim Garrat, Andy Brown)
Fit for Life (1999)

Shadows on the Wasteland: Crossing Antarctica with Ranulph Fiennes (By Mike Stroud, 1996)
The Home of the Blizzard: A True Story of Antartic Survival (Douglas Mawson, foreword by Sir Ranulph Fiennes, 1998)

You can buy some of the books here

His latest expedition, an attempt to reach the North Pole solo and unsupported, failed and he lost part of his fingers. He is still determined to go again, due to his family motto "Look for a Brave Spirit".

Currently he is living with his wife in Exmoor, West Somerset, England on a farm with 200 cattle and their St. John's waterdogs Thule and Pingo.

"Look for a brave spirit"

"Sir Ranulph and Lady Fiennes"

"Frozen terror"

"The hand of a witch"

"A journey which ended in near tragedy"

Quotes about Sir Ranulph

"The world's greatest living explorer" - Guinness Book of Records

"Mad but marvellous." - Prince Charles

"My admiration for Ran is unbounded and thank God he exists. The world would be a far duller place without him" - Prince Charles

"Probably because he's away all the time." - wife Ginny about the key to their relationship

"I'm not the sort to throw myself on the floor and burst into tears each time he sets off on one of his expeditions.I married Ran knowing what he's like and what he does. I just keep extremely busy. And because I've been on polar expeditions with him, I can relate to what he's doing." - Ginny

Quotes by Sir Ranulph

"Because it is my job. It's the way I make my income."
"It is a fact that the origins of it all was to make an income. Then I began to like it very much. I was fascinated by each problem and the knowledge that human beings hadn't solved this particular problem before."
- about his motivation to go on expeditions

"I'm not a Jane Fonda or a professor in nutrition. I'm just someone who has had to keep very physically fit in order to do a job. Along the way, I've come across fitness-inducing things which work for me and work for those who come on my expeditions."

"Most people know that to be healthy they should be doing various things and not doing various things, such as not smoking, but the trouble is that taking exercise is basically unpleasant for the vast majority of us. Eating healthily is also a hell of a bore. "

"Ginny's the single most important thing in my life. The expeditions, projects and farm would lose their point without her. She's not only my wife, but a sister and friend."
- about his wife

"I was verbally bullied rather than physically bullied. I had had a cosseted upbringing and I was probably spoilt. I learnt that people can be nasty to one another, which, after my soft childhood in South Africa, was a great shock to the system. English public school is good at giving shocks to the system of wimpish boys.
- about his school-days

"As it was, I spent eight years in the Army, after which the only thing I knew how to do was lead three 70-ton tanks in withdrawal - which doesn't exactly look good on a CV."

"We were both very strong characters and compromise, the linchpin of any marriage, was extremely difficult to attain. We needed a maturing process before we could get to any state of bliss. Couples don't work hard enough at compromise, hence the high divorce rate. Thank God we worked at it."
- about his marriage

"We didn't have any electricity for the first nine years, just a smelly old generator. We knew it would be quiet here, and it is. The weather is appalling for much of the winter, with thick mists and driving rain - we love it. We couldn't be happier."

"Anyway, if people ask if we have any children, I say: 'Yes, approximately 200 of them.' Ginny's out in all weathers looking after her cows, each one of which has a name - which, to my mind, is not a good sign in terms of future beef sales."

"I found it quite satisfactory that he had spent 45 minutes trying to get to the bottom of me, how I tick, and hadn't succeeded. I found that a victory. I spent a lot of time with the Special Forces learning how to resist interrogation. I took it on as a project."
- about a journalist who interviewed him for a radio programme called 'In the Psychiatrist's Chair'

"Definitely locating the lost city of Ubar. I did eight major expeditions to find it and eventually did in 1991. It was a great moment but frustrating. Because, well, perhaps you wouldn't repeat this. I had a base camp from which I had travelled hundreds of miles to look for it and it was actually within 300 yards of the camp. You know, in a way, having found it was a bit disappointing because, then, you couldn't go on looking for it."
- about his greatest expedition achievement

"I have spent years travelling the polar wastes and had many narrow escapes. The odds, I suppose, were always narrowing; this time they caught up with me. I am sure that our travel plans were correct this time; we had the mathematics right. But it was not to be. Whether I can try again depends on what happens to my hands- time will tell. "
- about his latest failed North Pole expedition