`Adventure' TV series finds examples worldwide

Dodge Morgan is a man who likes to sail alone. He sailed nonstop 27,500 miles around the world in 150 days, alone in his 60-foot cutter. But he likes people, too. He especially likes to share stories of adventure - his own as well as other people's. That's why he was chosen as host for the eight-part ``Adventure'' series now airing on PBS (Mondays, 8-9 p.m., check local listings). You may already have seen Mr. Morgan in the premi`ere of the series - ``Around Alone,'' an up-close camera chronicle of his extraordinary adventure. It aired in some areas March 16 and is still airing in many areas.

Between November 1985 and April 1986, this 54-year-old publisher sailed from Bermuda around the world and back to Bermuda in his own specially built, $1.4 million craft.

``It was a matter of a great boat, an iron will, and extraordinary luck,'' says Morgan. Last Monday on ``Adventure,'' Morgan introduced four Australians, two Britons, and an American woman who crossed the Nepalese Himalayas in a hot air balloon. In the following weeks, among other adventures, the program will feature a 1,000-mile dog-sled race in the Yukon, a Kon Tiki-style expedition in a Stone Age canoe, and an Eiger solo climb.

At lunch in a trendy New York restaurant, where he insists upon ordering a hamburger ($9.50), Dodge Morgan says he hopes viewers of all the shows will come away ``with the feeling that the series is important, because it is about people in the real world trying to do things, rather than the fiction one normally sees as reality on TV. I hope more people will come away saying, `It should be done, and I can do it.''' He's found this to be a common attitude among all the adventurers in the series.

Another similarity between them is an ability not to take themselves too seriously, an ability to laugh at the situations in which they often find themselves.

``But I really don't think they consider that they are actually going into risk-taking adventures,'' says Morgan. ``Most are well planned; the people are experienced; they are not lunatic fringers jumping off bridges.''

How have the publicized adventures affected the individuals involved?

``That can be divided into three categories. The first group has the wisdom to recognize the adventure as a high space and then go back and live life in a fruitful but not necessarily notable way. The second group keeps revisiting that one high - can't leave it behind. The third type comes back and says he has to go to start on the next test.

``The first and third are reasonable alternatives. The second is a sad one. I'm in the first group. I've had plenty of challenges, I'm ready to go back and lead a quiet life.''

If there is one message in the series, Morgan says it is: ``Have a dream and strive to bring it off. With one step at a time, you can go most anywhere...., do most anything. It is the individual who counts - not groups. Man's institutions are there to give life to efforts started by individuals.''

Bravery is not a valid measurement for adventure, according to Morgan. ``People who do successful adventures are generally prepared. They aren't involved in ... derring-do. They know what they are doing, plan for it. Fear is a good component, because it keeps you in line. But determination and persistence are the most important. Fear of failing is the worst of all fears.

``People assume I had some sort of occult agenda, spending so much time alone. But that's a trendy idea. It was not an intellectual challenge, just a simple one-hour, one-day-at-a-time direct challenge that just lasted a long time. It took determination and persistence and preparation. No mysticism or brilliance.''

Does grand adventure like his pay off monetarily?

He laughs. ``Are you kidding? Absolutely not. I expended much more than I can ever take in. But I consider myself fortunate. I know men who would love to sail around the world all alone in a specially built boat, as I did; I know men who have resources to do anything in business. But very seldom have I known the two to reside in the heart of one man. I feel so lucky, because I had both the resources and the desire.''

How much does ego play in the adventure?

``Very little. I wouldn't have arranged for cameras to be there to record failure as well as success if it were mere ego. If you need to tell others about your success in an adventure, that contaminates it.''

So if there had been no one else in the world, would Dodge Morgan have sailed round the world alone?

``Yes sir!''

Arthur Unger is the Monitor's television critic.

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