05 December 2007

The award of John Darwin, the Canoe Man

It seems to me that this post was titled ambiguously. It is not as if John Darwin got the award, it is that he awarded himself back to the public. The story doesn't seem to be extraordinary: a man went on a canoe trip, disappeared for five years and now reappeared with a total memory loss regarding his whereabouts and activity for the period. I think I have an explanation.

Five years contain about 5x365x24 = 43,800 hours. If we subtract the time for leisure, food, washing up, weekends, holidays, drowning accidents, flu, trade-unions strikes and miscellaneous (never forget the miscellaneous) the net rowing time was about 1,000 hours. With an average speed of 2 km/h (it was a vacation, for crying out loud!), Darwin traveled about 2,000 km. The shortest route from Seaton Carew (no fear, it is just a British way to name places), where the trip started, to London, where Darwin walked in to a police station recently, is about 400 km (see the blue line on the map below).

But this was not to be. The real travel, traced by the red line (intermediate landings mostly ignored), was entirely different.

Anyway, as I mentioned, nothing extraordinary. And why police got him arrested so promptly? Just a knee-jerk reflex. There is a lesson - if you go for a canoe trip, never walk in to any police station afterwards.

And what about the sentence his father heard from him just before the disappearance ("tell you what dad, see you later")? It is simply the British tradition of understatement, stupid!

Olly Onions has another opinion, though.