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The Life & Death of Douglas Tompkins

Posted by Kieran 16/12/2015 0 Comment(s)

Doug Tompkins; a businessman, conservationist, outdoorsman and philanthropist. Founded North Face in 1964.



Doug Tompkins was born on March 20 1943 in Conneaut Ohio. He was a businessman, conservationist, outdoorsman and philanthropist. He founded North Face in 1964. He started North Face by borrowing $5,000 and selling it a few years later for $50,000. In 1968, along with his wife Susie, he founded Esprit. By 1986 its worldwide sales topped $1bn.


Although he was a member of the Sierra Club as a teen, he discovered the concept of deep ecology through the Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess. Naess's philosophy opposes all "mega-technology" - from nuclear power plants to television sets and even wind turbines, and calls for a dismantling of the "techno-industrial society". In 1989 Tompkins abandoned his wealthy corporate lifestyle and moved to the wilds of Patagonia. Inspired by Naess’s principals, he established the Foundation for Deep Ecology in 1990.


“Humans have no right to reduce this richness and diversity except to satisfy vital needs.” – Arne Naess


In 1993, he married Kristine McDivitt. Doug Tompkins was very passionate about land conservation. Through their charitable organizations, he and his wife have acquired roughly 2.2 million acres of conservation land. The Tompkinses have helped create 5 new national parks in South America, expand another and are working to expand several more.


“These parks are our life's work, not the clothing chains we created.” – Douglas Tompkins


In 2010 he appeared in the documentary 180° South. The film followed adventurer Jeff Johnson as he retraced the epic 1968 journey of his heroes Yvon Chouinard and Doug Tompkins to Patagonia.



“People will walk on these lands. Don’t you think that’s more beautiful than a tomb?” – Douglas Tompkins on his legacy


On December 8th 2015, Doug Tompkins was kayaking with friends in General Carrera Lake in Chile when he got into trouble. Wind gusts had picked up over the course of the morning and the kayakers were battling 2.5 meter swells in 60kmph winds. Tompkins was in a two person kayak with friend Rick Ridgeway. Due to conditions the kayak capsized into the icy water that rarely reaches temperature above 4°C. Tompkins spent over an hour in the water and at some stage lost consciousness. He was rescued by helicopter and airlifted to Coyhaique Regional Hospital. By the time Tompkins had reached the hospital he had stopped breathing and his body temperature dropped to 19°C. Doug Tompkins died as a result of severe hypothermia.


Ocean Survivor is an Irish Start-up company. We have spent over a year researching and developing a product that will mitigate the effects of hypothermia in cold water survival situations. Doug Tompkins was a remarkable man who did a lot for this planet. We cannot say that the product we are developing would have saved his life but it might have made a difference. Stories like this, albeit tragic, inspire us. They drive us to bring our product to market and save lives. In 2016 we aim to bring our product to market and hopefully make stories like Doug Tompkins less and less common.

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