Colin Skinner

Colin Skinner
Colin Skinner holding a year old kiwi

Dr. Colin Skinner (born 1965) is a British adventurer and molecular biologist who is attempting to walk around the world. To date he has walked over 12,000 miles (19,000 km) and has crossed Great Britain, Iceland, America and New Zealand.[1] He has used the walks to raise money and awareness for various causes, including conservation biology, people with disabilities, cancer relief, AIDS, and hospice.



Skinner earned his Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) combined honours degree in biochemistry and genetics from the University of Leeds. He earned his PhD in molecular biology from the University College London. He earned his Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) in Secondary Science from Canterbury Christ Church University.

Walking around the world

Walking Scotland to England in 1984

He began at the age of 18 at John o' Groats (at the northern tip of Scotland) in 1984, and walked to Land's End in England. On this journey, which he carried out with three other people, he pushed a wheelchair 1,000 miles (1,600 km) and raised £3,500 for The Forelands School for handicapped children.

Walking across Iceland in 1986

In 1986, at the age of 20, whilst at the University of Leeds, he crossed Iceland, together with three other people, from Seyðisfjörður in the east, through the interior to the north of the Vatnajökull ice fields, and then west to Reykjavík. The team encountered an 'ash storm', where storm force winds had whipped up fine black volcanic ash, and had to wear goggles and face masks to push on into the winds. In the rain shadow of the Vatnajökull, they ran out of water, then encountered a flash flood, as mud rushed down from the melting glaciers. They also had to survive on food contaminated with petrol that had leaked from their petrol stoves. This journey of 400 miles (640 km) raised £2,000 for the Royal Association for Disability and Rehabilitation.

On the Icelandic trek, he came up with the idea of walking 6,000 miles (9,700 km), across Britain and America to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support in Britain and hospice in America and Canada.

Walking Scotland to England in 1988

On 1 May 1988, he set off again from John o' Groats, this time walking through the West Highlands, down the Pennine Way and then south to Land's End: a distance of 1,100 miles (1,800 km) in seven weeks. This walk raised £2,000 for Macmillan Cancer Support.[2]

Walking across the U.S.A. in 1988/1989

Colin Skinner walking by the Teton Mountains

The journey across the United States began on 15 July 1988. On the journey he slept in bushes beneath the World Trade Center, camped outside Kennedy Airport in a tent, then headed west. On Staten Island he collapsed from heat exhaustion at 105 degrees Fahrenheit. In Utah the temperatures went down to minus 30 Fahrenheit. Carrying a tent and a backpack, with no backup, he walked alone to Niagara Falls, through Ontario in Canada, to Detroit, between the Great Lakes, across the Great Plains, through the Rockies in winter, to Yellowstone National Park, then south to the Grand Canyon, on to Las Vegas, through Death Valley and then snowshoed over the Sierras to reach San Francisco. In Death Valley, down to his last $13, Skinner found $200 in the desert, and he had $1 left when he crossed the Sierras to reach Yosemite Valley. The total distance he walked from New York to San Francisco, was 4,952 miles (7,969 km).[3]

On the journey he visited 70 hospices and appeared on television, radio and in newspapers to encourage support for hospices across the U.S. and Canada. The mayor of San Francisco, Art Agnos, proclaimed 21 March 1989, "Colin Skinner Day," in recognition of the attention he brought to the work of hospices with AIDS patients in the city.

Returning to Britain after this walk, he obtained a job as a research assistant in Chemical Pathology at the Middlesex Hospital and went on to obtain a PhD in Molecular Biology at University College London. His PhD involved developing genetic tests to detect congenital adrenal hyperplasia in children.[4] He had work published in a number of scientific journals.[5] In 1994 he had his work published in Human Molecular Genetics.[6]

In 1994, Skinner married Dr. Monica Schneider (also a molecular biologist), and in 1996 their son James was born. From 1994 to 1996 Skinner worked as a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, in Nashville, Tennessee.[7] The work he carried out there involved gene sequencing and protein purification of cytochrome P450 enzymes. His work was published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.[8] From 1996 to 1997 Skinner took care of his infant son, James, whilst his wife continued to work at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Walking across New Zealand in 1998

In 1998 he walked from Cape Reinga in the North Island, to Bluff, at the southern tip of New Zealand. This was a distance of 1,500 miles (2,400 km). On the journey he walked through the active volcano at White Island, experienced earthquakes up to 4.9 on the Richter Scale, clambered over glaciers, swam with seals and reported on conservation biology projects involving endangered species. Information from the journey was posted on the Internet for schoolchildren in the U.S. via the Scholastic Corporation Scholastic Network.[1] In December 2010 Skinner completed a book about the New Zealand journey and conservation biology in New Zealand (New Zealand- 1500 miles on foot through - The Land Of The Long White Cloud).

In 1999 he obtained a PGCE (Postgraduate Certificate in Education) from Canterbury Christ Church University in Canterbury, England. In 2000 he worked as a secondary school science teacher at St. Edmund's School in Dover, teaching 11 to 16 year olds.[9]

In 2001 he worked as a volunteer at a wildlife park, working on enrichment activities for animals. From 2001 until 2003 he worked part time at a post office. During this time, he also taught science to primary school children and took care of his son.

In 2003 his mother died from pancreatic cancer, at the age of 59. This prompted him to write the story of the 6,000 miles (9,700 km) journey across Britain and America. In 2006 he finished the book Beyond the Setting Sun. Ranulph Fiennes, the renowned polar explorer and adventurer wrote an introduction to the book.[10]

The book has been written to raise money for hospices in Britain, Canada and America.

Walking Scotland to England in 2007

On 29 April 2007, he began walking again at John o' Groats and arrived at Land's End on 8 June, having covered 900 miles (1,400 km) in 6 weeks.[11] On the walk in Britain he visited 20 hospices and raised £7,500 for hospice through sales of the book Beyond the Setting Sun. He plans to walk the 5,000 miles (8,000 km) across the U.S.A., starting in 2009. On the journey he will give talks at schools and to organisations to encourage people to support their local hospice.

Walking across the U.S.A. in 2009

Colin Skinner during snow storm in North Dakota

Starting on 22 August 2009, he walked from Kennedy Airport in New York to within 15 miles of Devil's Lake, North Dakota. This was a distance of 2,053 miles (3,304 km) and Skinner stopped his journey on 3 December 2009, after 3 days with windchills down to -30 Fahrenheit. During the trip Skinner had to make incisions in his feet to relieve the pressure from blisters, suffered food poisoning, met up with a wolf in Upper Michigan, had to face down two wild dogs, and had ski masks frozen to his beard in North Dakota. On the journey he appeared on television, radio and in newspaper articles.[12] He also wrote a daily blog for the National Hospice Foundation.[13] He met hospice patients, including one woman with a terminal illness, who said that at times she could forget she was ill, thanks to the care she received in a hospice house in Buffalo, New York. He also met a man with lung cancer who could not sleep in hospitals, where there was always someone coming to check on him. In the hospice house in Windsor, Ontario, the man had a peaceful room to himself, where he could finally get some rest.[13]

Future walks will take him through Australia, Japan, China, Tibet, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Egypt and Europe.


External links


  1. ^ a b Meet Doctor Colin Skinner
  2. ^ Taking a walk across America, East Kent Mercury, 7 July 1988
  3. ^ Scotland to S.F. 6,000-Mile Hike for Hospices San Francisco Chronicle, 22 March 1989
  4. ^ Rumsby, G., Skinner, C., Lee, H.A. & Honour, J.W. (1992). Combined 17α-hydroxylase/ 17,20 lyase deficiency caused by heterozygous stop codons in the cytochrome P450 17α-hydroxylase gene. Clin. Endocrinol. 39:483-485.
  5. ^ Rumsby, G., Skinner, C. and Honour, J.W. (1992). Genetic analysis of the steroid 21-hydroxylase gene following in vitro amplification of genomic DNA. J. Steroid. Biochem. 41:827-829.
  6. ^ Skinner, C.A. & Rumsby, G. (1994). Steroid 11β-hydroxylase deficiency caused by a five base pair duplication in the CYP11B1 gene. Hum. Mol. Genet. 3:377-378.
  7. ^ Keeney D.S., Skinner C., Travers J.B., Capdevila J.H., Nanney L.B., King L.E. Jr., Waterman M.R.(1998). Differentiating keratinocytes express a novel cytochrome P450 enzyme, CYP2B19, having arachidonate monooxygenase activity. J. Biol. Chem. 273 48:32071-32079.
  8. ^ Keeney D.S., Skinner C., Wei S., Friedberg T., Waterman M.R. (1998). A keratinocyte-specific epoxygenase, CYP2B12, metabolizes arachidonic acid with unusual selectivity producing a single major epoxyeicosatrienoic acid. J. Biol. Chem. 273 15:9279-9284
  9. ^ What is it about teaching that's enticing so many of us Back to School? The Sunday Express Magazine, 7 November 1999
  10. ^ Dr. Colin Skinner's Site | Walking 6000 miles for hospice
  11. ^ this is cornwall - news, entertainment, jobs, homes and cars
  12. ^ [1]
  13. ^ a b [2]

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