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Twin Peaks: From Rowing the Atlantic To Flying Across The 'Red Pole', ELLE Meets The World's First Identical Twin Explorers

Together, they've trekked across the unforgiving ice caps of Greenland and rowed more than 2,000 miles of the Atlantic to set a world record. But, what does it really take for British adventurers Ross and Hugo Turner to adventure across the world's most threatening landscapes? ELLE sat down with the 'Turner Twins' to talk tragedy and triumphs around the globe.

It's not every day you meet an adventurer who has rowed the treacherous waves of the Atlantic, flown paramotors across the heart of the Australian outback at sunset, and climbed 18,510ft to the snow-capped summit of Mount Elbrus between Russia and Europe.

Let alone, meet two of them at the same time.

'We're buy-one-get-one-free, but pretty disposable. If one of us doesn't come back from a trip, at least you've still got the other one,' jokes Hugo Turner, smirking at his identical twin brother, Ross.

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For the Turner Twins – otherwise known as the 'Adventure Guinea Pigs' – the commonly used phrase 'two heads are better than one' is more than a saying, it's a way of life and a means to survive.

Thrill Seekers

In December 2011, the Turner brothers set off in a boat with two friends to row 2,650 miles across the Atlantic from the Spanish Canary Island of La Gomera to Barbados – an expedition that resulted in the them winning two world records; for being part of the youngest four man crew to row the Atlantic and one for being the first set of twins to row across any of the world's oceans.

'It was certainly a massive baptism of fire,' says Hugo.

But it wasn't always plain sailing (pardon the pun).

'There were more moments than not where you think you're going to capsize in the middle of the night. It was like rowing blindfolded – no moon or stars – and all you could feel were waves crashing against you, night after night, day after day. It was pretty horrible,' explains Ross.

With low points including finding out their friend's brother had been killed in Afghanistan while they were halfway across the Atlantic, and the realization they couldn't rely on a rescue team to help if they capsized, there were equally as many moments of laughter during their first adventure.

'When Greg pooed in a bucket, threw it over the side of the boat and it came back in the wind - that was a pretty good one,' jokes Ross.

'If you're not enjoying the moment and seeing the lighter side of things, there's no point even doing it', says Hugo.

The Making of Boy Scouts

The twins's zest for exploration started at a young age as they grew up up in Devon, southwest England.

Without a television to keep them entertained until they were eight-years-old and expansive woodlands at the back of their garden, the pair quickly developed a thirst for the outdoors; making dens and plotting mini expeditions with their two older siblings.

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'We'd take a big brass bell from the house and if we were in trouble, we'd ring it until one of our parents ran to find us,' explains Hugo.

Dressed in monogrammed clothes for the majority of their childhood ('we had an 'R' and 'H' on all our school uniforms and sports kits'), the 28-year-olds admit they were, unsurprisingly, inseparable growing up, and soon realised their brotherly bond reached far beyond the confines of the average twin relationship.

If one of us doesn't come back from a trip, at least you've still got the other one.

'We did everything together; we were in the same teams and classes at school. We've been very lucky to have such a close connection. We had friends in our village who were also twins but didn't click as well as we did,' adds Ross.

Tragedy strikes

On 28 July 2007, Hugo broke his neck following a diving accident while on holiday in Truro, Cornwall and received the news he'd never be able to walk again.

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He was just 17-years-old.

'I thought I'd just tweaked a vertebra so didn't want the doctors to bother my parents at 3am with a phone call, but then I was told my neck was broken and they'd have to operate immediately. Suddenly my whole life changed', he describes.

Fortunately, a neck reconstruction and months of rehabilitation meant Hugo, quite shockingly, made a full recovery – despite the occasional twinge of pain in his back – but his dream of playing rugby professionally was well and truly over.

I was told my neck was broken and they'd have to operate immediately. Suddenly my whole life changed.

Having dabbled in various other sports and after a two-year stint living together at university, the pair graduated in 2011 and were left pondering the same question all naïve and clueless twentysomethings are faced with – 'now what?'.

However, unlike most graduates who decide to hit a couple of Full Moon parties in South East Asia, embark on the arduous process of grad-scheme applications or move back in with their parents, this pair craved a different kind of adventure.

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Bang Goes The Theory

During our conversation, it becomes apparent that the twins don't only think of themselves as a pair, but almost the same person – grammatically, at least.

When they're not finishing each other's sentences or nodding along to the other's description of their adventures, they frequently use the term 'you' instead of 'we', and refer to themselves in the singular.

It's this very obvious 'twin-ness' that has appealed to the likes of Red Bull, watchmakers Breitling, who have been sponsors, led to appearances on the likes of Sky News and BBC One's The One Show, but also appealed to science.

If you're not enjoying the moment and seeing the lighter side of things, there's no point even doing it.

'There's a huge amount of people doing adventures on television; Bear Grylls, Ed Stafford, Ben Fogle. Being twins and doing world firsts puts us above the others... okay, perhaps a bit below Bear. The 'twin factor' has definitely helped to get where we are today very quickly,' says Ross.

Being genetically the same, means that the twins can take part in science experiments where one acts as the test subject and one acts as the control subject against which the results are compared.

In 2014, they teamed up with King's College London's Department of Twin Research which studies genetic and environmental influences.

'We're the only twins who embark on these kids of mad adventures, so we wanted to have more science involved,' says Hugo. 'It means the department can test how, as twins, we respond differently to environmental factors and can help them develop medicines and research on genetics.'

For their 555km trek across the ice caps in Greenland, the pair tested clothing used by explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton (worn by Ross), and modern-day adventure clothing (worn by Hugo), to find out how their bodies would respond in the extreme elements in the varying materials.

The result?

'Shackleton's was just as good as the new stuff,' they agree.

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Brotherly Love

When the pair aren't traipsing across the arid plains of Australia or sliding across the Greenland ice sheet, they're based in London, dividing their time between finding sponsors and increasing awareness for various charities, including spinal chord research organisation, Wings for Life.

They paint such a pretty picture of sibling togetherness, but surely their relationship isn't immune to the odd squabble, especially during their adventures?

'In short, we don't argue. If you work together, your chances of surviving increase. We have lots of heated discussions in the planning of different scenarios that might happen during an adventure, but I've never had a black eye yet,' jokes Ross.

'A raised voice means you're very serious about what you're saying,' Hugo adds.

A sharp tongue is something Ross no doubt experienced when he forgot his mountain boots for the pair's 5,642m trek up Mount Elbrus in the Caucasus in 2015. 'I climbed the majority in trainers before I could swap to snow boots,' he says, shaking his head.

As a result, the pair make sure they pack their kits –including around a hundred pieces of equipment comprising of first aid packs, filming equipment and clothing – together. However, while teamwork might be essential to each other's survival, they're still fierce competitors at heart.

Ross says: 'I'm definitely more competitive. For example in Greenland, I was wearing the old kit and I made sure my skis were half a foot ahead of him. I had to be superior in some way.'

If you work together, your chances of surviving increase.

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'We have a silly, twin, brotherly thing going on at all times, like seeing who can set off on their bikes first when the traffic lights turn to amber,' laughs Hugo.

It's this lighthearted mentality that helps the twosome get through the monotony of the day during an expedition, when you have only each other and your thoughts to keep you company.

Ross reveals: 'When you have to live your life without visual stimuli like phones and computers, you have a lot of time to think, it's like a long bath all day. We're all taught to cry when something upsets us but, on a trip, we try to laugh it off.'

Pursuit of Happiness

Years of traveling across the world, weeks camping in remote habitats and the feeling of isolation a familiar companion while abroad would be enough to have most people considering a break from adventure, especially at the risk of losing touch with old friends and missing important family milestones. It's a factor both twins acknowledge is a challenging part of their unconventional lifestyles.

'Weddings are hard to miss, but birthdays, they just remind you how old you're getting,' explains Hugo, taking the moment to show me a picture of his 19-month-old niece, Imogen, who they both adorably nickname 'Bear'.

We're all taught to cry when something upsets us but, on a trip, we try to laugh it off.

'It's a sacrifice, but a privilege. There are two halves to people in life – the people who entertain and the people who work to be entertained. If we can go away on these expeditions and create cultural content that might somehow motivate other people to go out and live a more healthy lifestyle, then it's worth it,' he adds.

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With stories of sleeping in swags in the bush, once surviving for ten hours on one boiled sweet and Hugo having suffered a knee injury during their Greenland expedition, which ultimately forced the pair to be evacuated, I'm surprised – as is their mother, I'm told – they choose to cycle in London, adding more danger to their already perilous lifestyles.

There's two halves to people in life – the people who entertain and the people who work to be entertained.

'The risk you're exposed to in a half-hour cycle ride around London is greater than what it's on the icecap but, in general, we're very good at assessing danger. The more you encounter adventure, the more you appreciate the dangers.

'On a trip, we're constantly recognising all the risks that could happen and put contingency plans in place. Life becomes much more simple when you look at options and decide 'yes' or 'no',' reveals Ross.

Hugo agrees, if not more so.

'Maybe because of my injury I'm a little more risk-averse. Lots of the small things scare the living daylights out of me. For example, the snow in Greenland gave me a heightened sense of awareness because it was always hiding something,' he adds.

While their jobs trekking the world's most deadly landscapes and often relying on the power of a paramotor engine or their months of fitness training to survive, the pair concur there's a difference between being an adrenaline junky, and an adrenaline junky with sense.

'There's a fine line between dumb-ass and bad-ass. We like to stay on the bad ass side,' explains Hugo.

The more you encounter adventure, the more you appreciate the dangers.

At the age of 28, it doesn't sound like the pair have any plans to quit adventuring just yet.

Even in the event that one of them meets a partner, for example, and decides to settle down, the duo are adamant that romantic relationships won't affect their 'twin-ness' or threaten their thrill-seeking lifestyles.

'It's both of us or neither of us,' they agree.

Incidentally, if you're interested, they're looking for girls who are 'outdoorsy and don't take five hours to get ready'.

World first explorers Hugo and Ross Turner recently became the only people to reach the Australian Pole of Inaccessibility by Paramotor. To watch their latest expedition go to www.theturnertwins.co.uk or follow them @theturnertwiins on Instagram'

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