We’ve been following Fedor Konyukhov’s attempt to row around the world via the Southern Ocean since it’s inception way back in December. That’s when he set out from New Zealand on this ambitious and grueling project that has now seen him survive at sea for more than 143 days. During that time, he has faced a number of trials and tribulations, including massive storms, incredibly rough waves, and his boat the Arkos capsizing on multiple occasions. Through it all, he has weathered the storm and is slowly but steadily approaching the end point of stage 1 of this journey at Cape Horn –– the southernmost point in South America. This past week, he reached a significant milestone on that journey by making visual contact with other humans for the first time in many weeks.
Last Friday, Konyukhov received unexpected visitors in the form of an aircraft dispatched by the Chilean Navy. The airplane flew out to locate the Arkos and to get a better understand of how Fedor is faring so far into his journey. The distance was still far enough –– and the weather so poor –– that a helicopter could not have reached the Russian adventurer, but the Enbraer 111 airplane was able to make through just fine, spotting the rowboat on its second pass just as Konyukhov lit a signal flare. The pilot and co-pilot than proceeded to circle the boat and chat with Fedor over the radio, checking in on the status of his health and supplies, as well as the condition of the boat. Once the crew was satisfied that all was well, the plane turned around and headed home.
This was the first human contact that Fedor received in 141 days. Yes, he’s been able to communicate with his support team back home via satellite phone, but he hasn’t seen another human being, nor a ship or aircraft, since he left New Zealand. The Southern Ocean does see some traffic of course, but it is light enough that no other vessels came within visual sighting. In fact, the onboard sonar that alerts him to passing ships has only seen a few “pings” within 8 miles (12 km) or so over the past few months.
Originally Konyukhov thought that he would have wrapped up this voyage by now, but it has taken far longer than he expected, and he isn’t quite done yet. As of this writing, the Arkos is now about 730 km (453 miles) from the finish line, which means he still has some work to do before he’s done. Worse yet, southerly breezes are expected all week long, which will not only bring cold weather, but will conspire to push him further north too. Right now, he’s looking to get to 54ºS latitude so that he can safely approach Cape Horn. That isn’t going to be easy, but after more than 8000 km (4970 miles) at sea, the Russian can practically smell the dry land.
The interesting question is whether or not Fedor will continue the next two phases of the project. Stage 1 has take a lot out o him and left him battered and bruised at times. Stage 2 would be scheduled to being later this year, requiring him to row from Cape Horn all the way to Australia. Stage 3 is currently set to take place in 2020 and would wrap up the journey with a return to New Zealand where he started. I think its safe to say a revaluation of those plans will take place once he reaches South American and eventually goes home.
You can follow along with his progress at Konyukhov.ru.