Fedor Konyukhov Survives Pounding in the Southern Ocean

As he nears the end of the first stage of his journey across the Southern Ocean in rowboat, we’ve been keeping a close eye on the status of Fedor Konyukhov. The Russian adventurer has completed most of the journey from New Zealand to Cape Horn, but only now is he facing the worst weather conditions imaginable. Over the past few days, those conditions have started to take a toll on him and his boat, although both continue to limp towards the finish line which is still 1100 miles (1770 km) away.

As reported last week, Konyukhov has been hit by a series of storms generated deep within the Southern Ocean. At the time, he was in the midst of a chain of four back-to-back storms that were battering his position with high winds, rain and snow, and massive waves. The worst of those hit earlier this week with Fedor’s boat –– the Arkos –– capsizing for the first time during the entire journey. In fact, after spending 117 days at sea without rolling over, the rowboat capsized three times in just a half hour. On the third roll it actually stayed upside down for a time, despite the fact that it has been built to right itself in the water.

Eventually, another big wave came along and rolled the Arkos back upright, but not before some significant damage was done. Fedor says that everything in the cabin that wasn’t nailed down was tossed about, including pots and pans, notebooks, dishes, and other gear. He was fortunately secured in place and didn’t get tossed about, although he did hand suspended upside down for a time, staring into the ocean below. Worse yet, the storm tore off several of his solar panels, greatly reducing his ability to generate power. It also tore away his windspeed sensors, although his radio and satellite phone antennas remain intact.

For a time, there were concerns that the boat may have suffered structural damage and could be taking on water. Fortunately, once the skies cleared Fedor was able to inspect the boat and discover that everything remained in one piece. He’ll now have to ration his energy usage each day, but with some thought and management he should be able to continue towards Cape Horn and the end of Stage 1.

If he is successful, Fedor plans on continuing the row later this year. Stage 2 would take him from Cape Horn to Australia, while Stage 3 would take place in 2020 and return him to his starting point in New Zealand. At this point, its beginning to look like he may successfully wrap up this first leg, although he still has a long way to go and the weather will only continue to get worse. Still, he is a tough, resilient, and determined man and so far, he’s managed to take everything the Southern Ocean has thrown at him. Hopefully that can continue for another thousand miles or so.

Kraig Becker