1024 miles (1648 km). That’s how far Russian Adventurer Fedor Konyukhov has to row to reach Cape Horn, the southernmost tip of South America. That’s roughly 1/8th of the total distance he has already rowed across the Southern Ocean, but it is clear now that it will be by far his biggest challenge to date. After experiencing relatively calm seas and good weather for weeks, the return of the austral winter is bringing a seemingly never-ending barrage of storms that is making life very difficult for Konyukhov at the moment. So much so that right now he is in the midst of yet another massive weather front and bracing himself for the worst.
The last time Fedor was hit by several big storms his rowboat –– the Arkos –– suffered a bit of damage. Not only did he lose his wind speed and direction indicator, several solar panels were ripped from the boat as well, severely crippling his ability to generate power. Since then, he’s been very conservative with his battery packs and right now he’s not making satellite calls at all. Instead, he is sending messages to his support team back home in Russia via text messages and those updates paint a dark picture.
In one of the notes, Fedor indicates that he hasn’t eaten hot food in days. Because the boat is being tossed about so violently he fears turning the stove on. The movement of the ocean could toss the pan containing the hot water about, scalding him in the process. So, in order to avoid this he’s been sticking to cold, uncooked meals instead. That probably isn’t particularly great since most of the food he brought with him is freeze dried and best served after being heated in boiling water.
The weather reports indicate that the north-westerly winds that were rocking the Arkos have now shifted to the west. That’s not good news, as that will generate larger and more powerful waves. In fact, Fedor says that it is probably only inevitable that the rowboat will capsize again as the current round of storms moves through. The good news is that the little rowboat has survived being rolled over on several occasions already and has come out just fine. But the continued stress on the boat –– not to mention Fedor himself –– is cause for concern.
There are few explorers who are as experienced and dedicated as Fedor, but here in the Southern Ocean he appears to have met his match. In one of his text messages he has said:
“I remember the words of my teacher, the Japanese solo traveller Naomi Uemura: “I go on solo expeditions to understand the limits of human capabilities.”
I think I found limits of my capabilities in this expedition and in these latitudes.”
Considering his vast experience in some of the most extreme environments on the planet –– including Everest and the North and South Pole –– that last statement says a lot. If he has indeed found the limits of his very substantial capabilities all we can do is hope that he’ll make it safely to shore. After that, he may reassess whether or not it is worth continuing this journey with stages two and three set to take place later this year and in late 2020.
Stay tuned. I’m following Fedor’s progress very closely and have my fingers crossed that he’s going to make it through this in one piece. There is still a very long way to go, and the weather is giving him only the slimmest margins of error.
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