Fedor Konyukhov Finds it Tough Going in the Southern Ocean

One of the expeditions we’ve been keeping a close eye on in recent weeks is the attempt by Russian adventurer Fedor Konyukhov to row solo across the Southern Ocean. As you may recall, he set out from Dunedin, New Zealand back in December with plans to row all the way to Cape Horn in Chile. The last time we checked in on his progress he had passed the halfway point of the row, while dodging storms and rough weather. Now, a few weeks later, he’s still out there, but progress has slowed to a crawl.

Now that Konyukhov has been out on the water for more than 75 days he has begin to feel the grind of rowing across such a remote and dangerous ocean. Physically it has taken somewhat of a toll, although he says that he is about as fit and in as good of a condition as can be expected for such a journey. Because of the large waves and incessant storms, he’s found it difficult to cook his meals, which means he hasn’t eaten much in recent days. Instead, he focuses on drinking plenty of water and pressing forward towards his goal, which isn’t always getting closer with each passing day.

In the Southern Ocean, the austral summer is quickly coming to an end and autumn is not far off now. That means a serious change in the weather and sea conditions, which have already started to impact Fedor’s crossing. Big waves now come at a steadier pace and rain and wind are a constant foe. This can cause him to spend all day at the oars just to maintain his position or even lose ground. Plus, the longer he stays out on the water the worse the conditions will become. He’s now in a race against the clock and so far he isn’t winning that battle.

Still, he isn’t about to give up either. Konyukhov has been through major challenges like this before and has always found a way to press on. He knows that this is only the first stage of the journey as well and he’ll face similar struggles in the future. If he is successful in reaching Cape Horn, the plan is to stop there, wait for austral summer to return later in the year, then resume the row. The second stage would take him from Chile to Australia, while a third stage, set for 2020, would return him to his starting point in New Zealand. If all of those plans come to fruition, Fedor will have rowed more than 27,000 km (16,777 miles), completely circumnavigating the globe.

Before that can happen however, he has to get through this first crossing. Right now, that is far from a forgone conclusion. Having been in the Southern Ocean in March myself, I can tell you that Fedor’s window for safety is starting to close. While things are definitely challenging at the moment, they will get even more so in a few weeks time. Hopefully he’ll be well on his way to the finish line when that happens.

Kraig Becker