If you follow the outdoor adventure and exploration scene closely the name Fedor Konyukhov is almost certainly one you’ve heard before. The Russian adventurer has pulled off some of the most amazing expeditions of the latter half of the 20th century and the start of the 21st century by doing such things as circumnavigating the planet in a hot air balloon and rowing solo across the Pacific Ocean. His resume also includes two trips to the summit of Everest, as well as ski expeditions to both the North and South Pole, amongst various other accomplishments. But his latest undertaking may be his most dangerous of them all, although if successful it would be an impressive accomplishment.
Ten days ago Konyukhov launched his attempt to row solo and unsupported around the world in the Southern Hemisphere. He left the town of Dunedin in New Zealand heading east with the hopes of crossing the Southern Ocean on his way to Cape Horn, the very tip of South America.
That’s the first checkpoint for this audacious rowing journey, which Fedor hopes to complete in three stages, ending in 2020. If successful with his crossing of the Southern Ocean to the cape, he plans to depart from South America next December and make his way to Australia. Then, in 2020 he’ll finish the journey by leaving Australia and rowing back to New Zealand where he began.
Konyukhov’s rowboat –– the Akros –– is a state of the art ocean rowing machine. It has water desalination system that can create as much as 30 liters of fresh drinking water per day and it is stocked with more than 900 freeze dried meals to feed the man while he’s at sea. It also comes equipped with high tech navigation and satellite communications systems, which are all powered by built-in solar panels. This should all allow the Russian to remain self sufficient out on the ocean for up to 160 days, which is about the amount of time he expect to take during the crossing.
As of now, Fedor is three degrees of longitude away from crossing the International Dateline and entering the Western Hemisphere. That will be one of his first milestones as he already struggles to keep his Akros heading in as straight a direction as he can. High winds and rough seas have already knocked the boat about some, although he reports that she is handling the conditions well so far. The first real test comes later this week as the first of two storms arrives on his position. One of those storms is expected to hit tomorrow, while another, larger one is moving in for the weekend.
The storms of the Southern Ocean are going to be one of the biggest obstacles Konyukhov will face on this journey. This part of the world is well known for its turbulent and powerful seas, which have crushed the dreams of sailors in larger vessels on countless occasions. Just last week we shared the story of Susie Goodall, who was racing in the Golden Globe Race. A massive storm struck her position in the Southern Ocean a few weeks back, snapping her mast and leaving her adrift. She’s since been rescued by a passing cargo vessel and returned safely to land.
Those are the same kinds of conditions Fedor will face, although he’ll be in a smaller vessel. To put things in perspective, when he does cross the Dateline, the closest humans to his position will be aboard the International Space Station. That’s a sobering thought, with little room for error in this wild and remote part of the world.