What does one have to do to be named “Explorer of the Century” by National Geographic? Guests of Del Mar Foundation and San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy had the chance to find out on Sept. 15 at a special edition of Del Mar Foundation Talks titled “Life Without Limits.”
Participants of all ages filled the Powerhouse to hear Helen Thayer share the epic tale of her solo trip to the magnetic North Pole. With no outside help, pulling her own sled, and accompanied by her dog, Charlie, Thayer was 50 years old when she made this trip. Her frequent encounters with polar bears, fierce arctic storms, breaking ice and near starvation held the audience’s rapt attention.
She described overcoming these challenges by planning and training for them, through resilience and the ability to acknowledge fear and push through it. Her message of courage and strength inspired the audience, which had the opportunity to ask questions after the presentation.
Among her other achievements, Thayer is the first woman to walk across the Sahara Desert, following an ancient 4,000-mile trade route from Morocco to the Nile River, and the first woman to walk 1,600 miles across the Mongolian Gobi Desert. She has lived alongside a wolf den for more than six months and was the first non-Indian woman to kayak 2,200 miles in the Amazon. A best-selling author, she has three books in print: “Polar Dreams,” “3 Among the Wolves,” and “Walking the Gobi.”
As a motivational speaker, Thayer travels internationally, inspiring audiences around the world. She was an honored guest at the White House in recognition of her expeditions and her educational projects. Adventure Classroom, a nonprofit 501c3 organization, was founded by Thayer with the goal of inspiring students to embrace integrity, demonstrate courage, and assume responsibility for their actions.
DMF Talks, the Del Mar Foundation’s version of the famed TED Talks, draws its speakers from locally based creative, intellectual and scientific leaders. Launched in 2012, DMF Talks aim to entertain, inspire, and inform the community through a series of free presentations. Visit
For information on the San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy, visit