Englishman Oliver Hicks is striving to be the first to row around the world
Oliver Hicks (27) is attempting what may well be the most ambitious rowing journey ever, a non-stop voyage around the world through the Southern Ocean. Beginning from the island of Tasmania, Australia, Hicks will spend up to two years rowing eastwards until reaching Tasmania again. Hick’s path will veer south towards Antarctica where the currents and winds will be in his favour.
The Southern Ocean, composed of the lower reaches of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans, is considered the most violent stretch of water on the planet. Author Derek Lundy in his book Godforsaken Sea, outlining the Vendee Globe round-the-world sailing race does an excellent job of describing this hell on earth:
“It was true that the Southern Ocean had behaved as usual – its chain of low-pressure systems moving relentlessly across the racers’ path. Storm – and often hurricane – force winds had piled waves up to fifty or sixty feet. At times, the boats had surfed down wave faces at thirty knots, almost out of control. They had struggled through the dangerous and chaotic cross-seas that followed quick changes in wind direction and had had been knocked down often. For several weeks, the skippers endured this trial by wind and cold, ice and breaking waves, skirting the edge of catastrophe as they threaded their way through the great wilderness of the southern seas.”
Frequently sailors perish on this grueling round-the-world race and more than half the boats drop out after sustaining serious damage. It is considered the most dangerous sailing race in the world.
Navigating these seas in 60’ fast-moving sailboats is considered the upper limits of madness. Yet Oliver Hicks has committed himself to this same stretch of ocean in the most basic of boats. He can expect to endure years of living in a salt and pepper shaker as his vessel is tossed from the tops of fifty, sixty or even eighty-foot waves. The duration of his voyage ensures he will face the very worst the Southern Ocean has to offer. This stretch of sea is devoid of shipping lanes, and is beyond helicopter range, meaning rescue is only possible by dispatching a ship, a slow and costly process – and certainly not guaranteed.
Hicks originally planned on departing from New Zealand, but authorities refused to grant permission feeling the chance of needing a rescue was too high. Australian officials urged Hicks not to go, but refrained from banning his departure.
Marine and Safety Tasmania chief executive Colin Finch is concerned about the difficulty of providing rescue, “The problem with a rescue down there is that it’s much more difficult and once he gets east of New Zealand, it’s even harder.”
Hick’s strategy, however, is to be prepared and to avoid the need for rescue. His rowboat is custom designed by British designer Phil Morrison to withstand the roughest seas – barring a collision with an iceberg or flotsam. His boat is equipped with state-of-the-art electronics, redundant systems, and an extensive tool kit. He is an experienced rower, holding title as the youngest to row across the Atlantic Ocean. Virgin and Google are two key supporters of this quest.
Hicks departed from Tasmania January 23rd and is slowly making his way southeast. Weather conditions will deteriorate over the following weeks as he slips from the lee of Australia and into the infamous waters of the Southern Ocean.
Hicks will be fuelled with dehydrated foods, vitamins, and water provided by his desalinator. In total he will row 24,000 km. This has to be one of the most exciting expeditions of 2009. http://www.virginglobalrow.com/
You can follow Olly’s progress at: