Their pioneers proved that survival at sea is more a question of knowledge and determination, rather than the desperate situation. These days, ocean rowers are geared with sat phones, Epirbs and Argos tracking devices - a luxury the forerunners surely would have embraced. The new tech also allows for some great stories. Image live over Contact 3.0 courtesy of Alex Bellini.


Alex is making slow progress, as he continues to battle wind from all directions. Image live over Contact 3.0, courtesy of Alex Bellini.
The battle for ocean survival: Small vessels, big seas

Posted: Oct 11, 2005 01:37 pm EDT
When you enter the Oceanrowing Society website these days, your head spins. Oceanrowers everywhere - it's a big change to a few years back. In an earlier interview with ExWeb, Kenneth Crutchlow of the ORS spoke of how the society began about 35 years ago. Kenneth was in New York City having drinks with a pack of eccentric British newsmen when one said to him, "They want me to go to Florida to cover this ocean rowerbloody tropics. Would you take this one for me, my dear boy?" Turned out that the person coming into Florida after becoming the first to row across the Atlantic from east to west was the legendary John Fairfax - and Kenneth was hooked.

These days, rowers safety and rescues are big issues in media and for ORS. Yet it's easy to forget that safety was exactly what once started it.

Man can survive at least 9 days without food and water

The phenomenon of crossing oceans in impossible vessels began in the mid of this century, when Doctor Alain Bombard and his followers decided to find out why so many shipwrecked sailors were killed prematurely in their life rafts. Man can survive in temperate climates at least 9 days without food and water, often much longer if he collects rainwater, drinks small amounts of sea water (around one pint spread out over ten rations each day), and/or catches enough ocean fish to press (most species contain around 80-85% of fresh water).

Shipwrecked died in only a few days

Yet out of 150 survivors from a shipwreck in 1816 only 15 survived the 13 days in a life raft. Most succumbed much earlier due to sheer panic. Another ship which went down in 1896 had the survivors perish already on their second day as castaways. When the Valliant sank in 1897, only one in four survivors made it through the six days in a lifeboat.

In the 1950s, Alain Bombard survived months at sea and several crossings including the Atlantic in an inflatable boat without any provisions at all. Hannes Lindeman crossed the Atlantic in a dugout canoe. And there were other examples. They all proved that survival at sea is more a question of knowledge and determination, rather than the desperate situation.

Safety at sea

Safety was a concern already back then. In the old days, the pioneers tried short-wave radios for communication albeit with little success. Instead they relied on small mirrors to grab the attention of large ships, the procedure not entirely successful either. These days, ocean rowers are geared with sat phones, Epirbs and Argos tracking devices - a luxury the forerunners surely would have embraced. The new tech also allows for some great, live stories.

One of the high tech rowers is Alex Bellini, on his second attempt to cross the Atlantic, starting from Italy. Hes making progress, but continues to battle wind from all directions. Its hard to say exactly how much mileage hes made everyday, but if position indicators on his tracking website are any indicator, hes getting blown around in all directions.

One picture tells more than a dispatch in Italian

On his last trip, the 26 year old free-lance photographer was rowing in the Mediterranean Sea - the first Italian rower to attempt to cross an ocean, rowing 4500 n/miles from Genoa (Italy) to Cayenne (French Guyana) solo and no-stop. Not very experienced, Alex "learned that human resources can bring people further than objective ability does." Alex left Genoa October 21, and was shipwrecked November 12.

Now undertaking his second attempt to row the Atlantic E-W and to become the first Italian to row any ocean solo, with the start from Genoa, Italy and finish in Brazil - Alex dispatches in Italian but his live pictures over Contact 3.0 pretty much tells it all.

Ocean rowing has become increasingly more appealing to adventurers who wish to experience the big seas but lack the skill and money to sail a proper boat. There is also the fact that ocean rowers get to experience the sea like few boatmen; traveling very close to the waters surface, rowers get to meet the creatures of the sea up, close and personal.


#Oceans