To fund his adventure, Jason took all kinds of odd jobs such as cattle driving in Colorado or working in a funeral parlor in Australia. But he always returned to the exact point where he had left off, and continued his way around the world on his own steam.
In 1519 Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan set out on an ocean voyage with 5 ships and a crew of 270 men. (Click to enlarge).
It would take another 500 years before a human powered world circumnavigation was repeated.
Where Magellan ventured into terra incognita, Jason's quest called for human powered ocean voyages in a far smaller vessel.
The final leg started with a 2,200-mile crossing of the Indian Ocean to Djibouti in Africa.
Jason rode his bicycle across the war-torn Horn of Africa, facing desert, heat, thirst, poverty and war-lords. He made it across Ethiopia and Sudans desert in one piece...
...only to get arrested in Egypt.
Surprisingly, Lewis made it to the site where Ramses IIs impressive temples stand, after paddling for two nights through the militarized buffer zone between Sudan and Egypt - in the image, Abu Simbel latitude registered on Jason's GPS.
I was actually caught on the return journey back to Sudan, in order to secure an exit stamp. I was apprehended and overpowered by local fishermen who turned me in," Jason dispatched over his sat modem.
After sleeping in a Shell petrol station on the outskirts of Istanbul, Jason strayed on Moksha when he rowed across Turkey's Bosphorous, the legendary strip of water dividing Istanbul, Europe and Asia.
A miniature version of the scary Holywood varieties, this shark had a grey top which faded toward a white underside.
The biggest culture shock came in Europe. "Even if there isn't a rule for something, someone will make it their business to you inform you that you're doing it wrong, whatever 'it' may be," Jason fretted.
But soon Jason was in deep himself, when it came to rules defining a world circumnavigation. Image of Lewis human powered route imposed on a regular map and a mirror map to show that the antipodes have been reached.
When looking at the world this way, it becomes clear that the difference in distances between various 'world circumnavigations' can be quite big. Red Circle showing a circumnavigation of Antarctica. Blue Circle showing a Great Circle meeting the antipode requirements.
Jason Lewis arriving at Greenwich, the same place the First Human Powered Circumnavigation began 13 years ago, and speaking to Erden at sea during the arrival ceremony.
Best of ExplorersWeb 2007 Awards: Jason Lewis, world circumnavigation
Posted: Dec 31, 2007 01:34 am EST
We have covered close to a thousand expeditions in 2007. It's difficult to choose the best, as they all contributed in their own way, sharing their story - their very soul in fact - with us and the world.
And yet, there are those who linger in our minds long after their final debrief. We have chosen 8 expeditions who have contributed in an extraordinary way to the Spirit of Adventure in 2007.
Today number 2: Jason Lewis, world circumnavigation
In 1519 Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan set out on an ocean voyage with 5 ships and a crew of 270 men. 2 years later, Magellan was killed by Philippine tribes. In fact, only 18 seamen led by Juan Sebastián Elcano would make it back, becoming the first to complete a true circumnavigation of the earth with the ship Victoria in 1522.
It would take another 500 years before a human powered world circumnavigation was repeated. But on October 6, 2007, US resident, British Jason Lewis crossed the Greenwich Meridian Line for a second time since 1994. He had traveled around the entire planet - without wind or motor assistance, at times pedaling a one-of-a-kind boat 'Moksha' (liberation in Sanskrit) across the world's oceans.
Magellan's trip extended over 3 years. Jason's took 13, in parts because to fund his adventure, he took odd jobs such as cattle driving in Colorado or working in a funeral parlor in Australia. But he always returned to the exact point where he had left off, and continued his way around the world on his own steam.
This meant crossing every water way, every hill, every stretch of land on his own, which called for serious human powered ocean voyages - in a far smaller vessel than the ones Magellan's expedition used.
Transporting the pedal boat all over the world was a pain, but Moksha was one of the things that made the expedition unique: custom designed and custom built she survived years of near fatal accidents, from colliding with a coral reef outside the Turks and Caicos Islands in 1995, to capsizing and nearly sinking in California in 1998.
"Moksha is part of the team, and you never leave a team member behind, Jason made clear.
Partner left in Hawaii
In 1994, original pedaling partner Steve Smith and Jason Lewis completed the first East-West crossing of the Atlantic by pedal power. A year later Lewis crossed USA on roller blades. This almost cost him his life when he was overrun by a car, breaking both of his legs.
After his recovery, Jason and Stevie pedaled Moksha to Hawaii from San Francisco in 1996. In Hawaii, Stevie decided he had had enough and returned to England to write his book: "Pedaling to Hawaii."
From Hawaii, Jason took off alone until Tarawa Atoll, then reached Australia via the Solomon Islands, patching a final section over the Great Barrier Reef by sea kayak, which preserved Moksha for future legs of his journey.
Pedaling across Himalaya, to Africa
Jason bicycled to the inner heartlands of Australia with the express purpose of reaching the antipode on his circumnavigation route, which was a location diametrically opposite to a point on their path across the Atlantic. He kayaked and bicycled the entire Indonesian Archipelago until Singapore. Indochina, China, Tibet, Nepal and India was his bicycle path over the Himalayas to Mumbai, where Moksha was waiting again.
The final leg started with a 2,200-mile crossing of the Indian Ocean to Djibouti in Africa, which Jason completed together with Indian friend Sher Dhillon. Jason then rode his bicycle across the war-torn Horn of Africa, facing days of desert, heat, thirst, poverty and war-lords. He made it across Ethiopia and Sudans desert in once piece...only to get arrested in Egypt.
Busted in Egypt
By the time his buddies had their second kid, third mortgage and fourth promotion; Jason smuggled himself into Egypt by kayaking across Lake Nasser, was caught by Egyptian authorities and accused of espionage.
In his ultra-light luggage, Jason carried a video camera recorder, a lap top and a Bgan satellite modem to do daily dispatches and videos. The comm gear didn't help his situation, neither did his suspicious appearance and two passports packed with stamps from places such as Sudan.
The cops would have nothing of no circumnavigation. But just prior to a forced transportation to Cairo for further questioning a last minute permit by the countrys authorities spared Jason 40 years in Egyptian jail.
From Asia to Europe on a kayik
Next, Jason passed Jordan and Syria on his bike, then Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Austria, Germany and Belgium, before crossing the channel in Moksha.
After sleeping in a Shell petrol station on the outskirts of Istanbul," the local mosque turfed us out of their garden when they found us about to roll out our sleeping mats," Jason strayed on Moksha when he rowed across Turkey's Bosphorous, the legendary strip of water dividing Istanbul, Europe and Asia using a Turkish 'kayik' courtesy of Erden Eruc who fixed him up with the local rowing club.
I am not a very good rower," Jason reported. "The uneven chop of the waves took quite a bit of handling, I'm sure all the guys from the Rowing Federation must have been rolling their eyes."
In fact Erden's family checked on Jason through this entire leg, "to make sure I'm not lying face down in a ditch somewhere."
Balding Balkans and culture shock south of Frankfurt
Jasons cousin Merlin joined Jason in Turkey and rode a bike with him to Budapest. Merlin described the bike ride through Balkan as, some truly scary traffic and death defying unlit Serbian tunnels.
Surprise came after crossing the border between Turkey and Bulgaria: We passed through any number of passport checks, the two Lewis reported. We even had our tyres sprayed with disinfectant twice. We were now in the EU (as so many signs said) and Christendom. Immediately everything looked a lot more impoverished and tatty.
Riding through Balkan territories, Jason shared his observations, on a people level, crossing into the Balkans is a bit like stumbling onto a set of The Benny Hill Show: Short, fat, balding men wearing wife-beater vests surrounded by scantily clad females dressed up like porn stars.
The diplomatic Merlin tried to smooth things over: As for this business about attractive Slav females that Jason commented on - I have to dissociate myself from any such impressions.
But the real culture shock came in the industrial region of Germany south of Frankfurt.
"It has been somewhat of a drag," Jason reported. "I hate to say it but the Germans do fit the stereotypical mould of being sticklers for rules. When I choose not to use the bike paths, riding on the side road itself for better use of time (riding on the bike paths is merely a suggested alternative), the drivers get hysterical, yelling and jabbing their fingers for me to get off the road, even if they're traveling in the opposite direction!"
"Such a different attitude to other countries where people mind their own business. But in Europe it's certainly different. Even if there isn't a rule for something, someone will make it their business to you inform you that you're doing it wrong, whatever 'it' may be. I shouldn't imagine England will be much different. I can't wait. I do so love rules."
Without any worry whom he might upset, Jason kept it real. The contents of his dispatches were far beyond the modern classic travel posts of beautiful sceneries and hostel room ratings. Jason recorded the good and the bad, whatever got his attention from dogs ready to be served for dinner to his own sweaty, shivering bout of malaria.
The white cliffs of Dover
Finally, Moksha slipped into Dover harbor, successfully avoiding being apprehended by the French authorities. The departure from the beach at Cap Gris Nez proved the final obstacle.
Pushing Moksha out in the heavy surf to face the rollers and then out into water deep enough before being wrecked onto the 'Dragon Teeth Rocks', just 100 meters apart either side of the beach - Jason almost made the call to abandon. It was actually a prompt from the villagers that swung the decision: "We know this water - you might make it if you go NOW," they urged on the world explorer.
Jason was off. "The pearly white cliffs of Dover provided a beacon to which to pedal towards in the fading light, symbolising the long awaited return to the green isle of England for Expedition 360," he dispatched.
A few days later, Jason Lewis's 13 year long journey was over. For the first time since Magellan, the world had been circumnavigated only by the power of man.
The final battle - with the media
But Jason's battle wasn't over just yet. Another ExWeb award winner (special mention last year) Colin Angus completed a 720 days long human powered circumnavigation of the northern hemisphere in 1996. Colin and wife Julie were awarded also by National Geographic Adventure mainly for a spectacular ocean crossing they had done as part of Colin's quest.
Now, Colin claimed a world circumnavigation first. Fellow traveler Erden Eruc came to Jason's aid, from the middle of the Pacific Ocean explaining how he himself had to start over when he found that there actually are standards associated with this unique world record: ground has to be covered in both hemispheres, and at least two antipodes must be reached.
Erden and Jason wrote to media, but received few thank-you notes, not to mention corrections.
"When we wrote to the editors, mentioning antipodes and great circles, we were instructed to talk in layman's terms, and essentially treated like sore losers," Erden reported on his expedition website.
"I found this pathetic condescending behavior especially appalling when one such publication was the National Geographic Adventure magazine. In an ideal world, this magazine with 'geography' in its name would have done its homework as any publication associated with a scientific journal should have, before writing about a geographic feat."
The guys called to ExWeb for help and the controversy brought AdventureStats straight back to Magellan.
The five second circumnavigation record
The word circumnavigate is based in geometry and means to travel around the entire object, or what is called a 'great circle'. As it's hard to travel in a straight line (a perfect circle), the way to ensure that a great circle is accomplished is to reach at least two 'antipodes' = two diametrically opposite places on Earth.
Ferdinand Magellan reached two antipodes. Among the discoveries of the trip was the need of a date line and the understanding that travel around the world in Easterly direction will gain one day - a phenomenon central in Jules Vernes classic novel Around the World in 80 days."
Phileas Fogg and his friends "gained a day" and won the bet, in spite of their southernmost point reached being Singapore, still north of the Equator. This shows that even Jules Verne struggled with the concept, but the definition is important as otherwise even a run around the South Pole marker would render an around the world record - taking about 5 seconds.
Clear definitions or close variations are used by solo sailors, most human powered circumnavigators, and record keepers such as the World Sailing Speed Record, the Ocean Rowing Society - and Guinness Book of Records, whose founder simply wrote "must reach two antipodes."
Record keepers, plain geography and some simple math finally gave Jason Lewis his 13 year long, well-deserved victory: 500 years after Magellan's historic voyage, he had managed the world's first human powered circumnavigation.
By their performance, the awarded expeditions have proved themselves outstanding in all or most of the following:
- Self reliance
- Respect towards competition
Previous in the countdown:
3. Denis Urubko and the Kazakh climbers, K2
4. Tomaz Humar - Annapurna solo, Himalaya
5. Silvio Mondinelli - 14 years, 14 summits, Himalaya
6. Dodo Kopold - 3, 8000ers in 4 months, Himalaya
7. Borge Ousland and Thomas Ulrich - North Pole retrace
8. Hannah McKeand, The fastest trek, South Pole
Jannu West Ridge First Ascent: Valery Babanov and Sergey Kofanov
Torres del Paine Base Jump: Valery Rozov
In the hoofsteps of Genghis Khan: Tim Cope
NW Passage in ice catamaran: Sebastien Roubinet
Lhotse Shar, G2 NF & Jasemba, Lhotse south near-winter ascent
More about World circumnavigation:
A true circumnavigation of the earth (around the world) according to Adventurestats must:
Start and finish at the same point, traveling in one general direction
Reach two antipodes (Antipodes = two diametrically opposite places on Earth)
From the above follows that a true circumnavigation must:
Cross the equator
Cross all longitudes
Cover a minimum of 40,000km or 21,600NM (a great circle).
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