The record-breaking polar explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes was critically ill in hospital yesterday, having had an emergency heart bypass operation after a suspected heart attack.
The adventurer, 59, whose exploits at the extreme ends of the planet once earned him the moniker of "World's Greatest Living Explorer" in the Guinness Book of Records, collapsed on Saturday morning as he boarded a flight at Bristol airport.
He was given first aid by firefighters at the airport before being taken to Bristol Royal Infirmary where he was in a "critical but stable" condition after his surgery on Saturday night.
A spokeswoman for the hospital said: "Sir Ranulph collapsed while waiting for a flight to Scotland to take off. He received prompt attention at the airport and was transferred here. He underwent an emergency bypass. He is in intensive care."
The adventurer, who three years ago swapped his ice pick for a quieter life writing books and breeding Aberdeen Angus cattle on Exmoor, Devon, had just sat down on the easyJet flight to Edinburgh when he was taken ill.
A spokesman for Bristol airport said: "He suffered a heart attack shortly after boarding the plane as cabin crew were carrying out their final checks before take-off." The flight, which was carrying 130 passengers and five crew, was delayed for three hours.
Sir Ranulph, a former special forces soldier, has gained a reputation for surviving setbacks in extreme conditions - from gangrene at the North Pole in 1990 to dodging bullets in the Middle East.
In 2000, he was forced to abandon a solo attempt to reach the North Pole after one of two food supply sledges he was towing fell through thin ice, pulling him into the freezing Arctic water. The frostbite he suffered was so severe that several of his fingers had to be amputated.
But the Old Etonian has achieved a long roll-call of firsts, breaking 10 expeditionary records in 20 years.
In 1982, he led an expedition to complete the first circumnavigation of the globe via the two Poles and in 1993 he completed the first solo walk across Antarctica.
Since giving up his adventures, he has become a best-selling author. His crime thriller The Sett, published in 1996, is currently being turned into a Hollywood film.
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