Man explores U.S. rivers by hovercraft
August 05, 2004
The Daily Helmsman
By Ryan Sisung
It's not often that people drop their job and sell their house to
go explore and witness the splendor of another country. But British
native Robert Hodson is doing just that, with his two-year journey
to explore U. S. rivers and waterways.
"I decided to explore the rivers of the United States via
hovercraft about three years ago," said Hodson, who began his
trip in the spring. "I'm not much of a sailor or navigator,
and since the hovercraft travels above the water, there's not too
much worry about having a smooth ride. It was probably about six
years ago that I actually came up with the idea and the dream began
this year when I set out on April 7."
Hodson said he has held many interesting positions, including state
management for the Saudi royal family.
"My main love is the outdoors though," he said. "I
have been a gardener and like to be involved in rivers, outdoor
education and forestry."
|Robert Hodson (next to podium), an adventurer
from Great Britain, talks to professor Jim Hardin's class about
world politics and government systems. Hodson is traveling U.S.
rivers in a specially built hovercraft. Erika M. Pryor photo
Hodson made a stop in Memphis to make repairs on his hovercraft
before moving on. Jim Hardin, University of Memphis adjunct professor
of history and political science, offered Hodson a place to stay
and an opportunity to speak to a group of students in his world
"I met Mr. Hodson through a mutual friend who is helping him
repair his hovercraft," said Hardin. "I believe his project
is wonderful. He is traveling the rivers and seeing a side of America
you cannot see on American or British television. He has the makings
of a great documentary or book with the stories he's collected so
The statement rang true as Hodson recounted a few tales during
his lecture to Hardin's students.
"I remember when I started out I was on the Savannah River
asleep in my craft and awoke to the sounds of what I believe are
called rednecks," Hodson said. "They were out hunting
gators and hogs and such so yes, I've run into quite a few people.
That's one of the reasons for making this journey, to experience
and interact with the people on the rivers."
Mark Grizzard, junior mechanical engineering major, said he is
intrigued at the method of travel Hodson is using to cross the rivers.
"I am thinking of building a hovercraft in my spare time,"
Grizzard said. "I think it's great he is using this mode of
transportation to get across the United States."
Hodson said books and magazines such as National Geographic are
what got him interested in exploring in the first place.
"This thing really is a personal venture for me," Hodson
said. "I figured while I'm of age I should go out and do what
I desire to instead of waiting until I'm 60. I'm not trying to break
any records, and I may do some filming and writing by the end of
it. Actually, the bottom line is I'm just enjoying myself."
Hardin said he feels Hodson's project is relevant today for a couple
"First, it's unique in this day and age to explore the United
States by river, which by all accounts is pretty well settled and
explored," Hardin said. "It has a Lewis and Clark feel
to it and appeals to the human spirit of exploration. Second, with
all the talk you hear about how the English and Europeans dislike
Americans, it is refreshing to see a man from England take an interest
in seeing America free from the influence of media.
"If a documentary or book comes out of this project, it could
be a wonderful bridge between the Atlantic and our cultures."