ExplorersWeb has been awarded the best adventure website in the world. What is then the Best of ExplorersWeb?
We have covered hundreds of expeditions in 2005. 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.
Theirs have been stories of dreams, frustration, hope, disaster and - sometimes - victory in the eye of the impossible. At times it has been a pain in the butt (why do you all have to go on summit pushes over the weekend?!) but most often a sheer joy to follow the brave explorers of our time.
And yet, there are those who continue to 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 the year of 2004.
By their performance, these expeditions have proved themselves outstanding in all or most of the following:
- Self reliance
- Respect towards competition
Out of the hundreds of expeditions, the countdown of the most exceptional begins tomorrow, but starts already today with a special mention to an additional 4:
Special mention: Marcin Miotk: The Dark Horse says summit
After 2 attempts in one week, Marcin Miotk 31, made the top on June 5th - becoming the last Everest summiteer of the season. It was the coolest Everest climb of 2005, but there was a dark side to Marcins Everest ascent.
Although Polish climbers have done great things on Everest all have been with gas. Krzysztof Liszewski died in 2003 on the North Side in the latest attempt. Marcin was next in line to try.
He headed out from ABC totally alone and met a limited number of climbers on the way. In camp 1, he discovered that his new Gore-Tex jacket was gone. He climbed straight to Camp 2. There he discovered that his tent had been robbed as well. Crucial gear was gone: Wind stopper trousers, wind stopper jacket, sleeping bag, gloves, socks and most importantly: A good head-torch. Marcin's climb went from direct to VERY light.
The situation was crucial - Everest without supplementary oxygen is a very cold experience. The next day he moved up to Camp 3. Due to the lack of a head torch, Marcin decided to start his summit push early in the morning, at 5.30 a.m. alone without a backpack, or much clothes on. He reached the summit at 2.30 p.m. - making Polish history.
It was late evening when Marcin returned to his high camp at 8300 meters. He fell into the tent, where a friend had left a sleeping bag for him, and where Marcin stored his stove, and high altitude emergency medicines. But now, the tent was empty. All the gear, including his medicals was gone. The only people around - high altitude Sherpas from a couple of big, commercial expeditions. Marcin survived against the odds, but made a call at ExplorersWeb: "I got my summit and I will probably not visit Everest North Side again. But I care for other climbers' lives. So I wonder what we can do together - to change this?
Marcin stays in our memory for his determination, self-sufficiency and courage to speak up.
Special mention: Saito- san 71, home after 233 days alone at sea
At age 71, Minoru Saito from Japan became the oldest person to do a solo circumnavigation without stops. He left Japan October 16, 2004 on his boat Shuten-dohji II (translates "Drunken child" but commonly referred to as "Shoot your dog"). 233 days later, Saito-san returned to his starting point 4 km west of Misaki Port. It had been a true ocean odyssey between the old man and the sea.
Foul weather cost him jib damage, the new weather fax system was busted, and the fridge was also out almost immediately after he set off. Frigid temperatures didn't deter him, "it is a little cold outside the cabin in only a T-shirt," but rough seas took their toll: "Have not slept more than 2 hours at a stretch since leaving Japan, but although short of sleep, otherwise feeling well," he reported.
There was much talk about food: "Japanese squash is easily rotten though tasty. On the other hand, Australian squash lasts a long time, about half a year though the taste is not as good as Japanese squash. Japanese pumpkins taste better than American or Australian ones, but they are harder and keep longer, though they are not so tasty," we learned.
Tech sucked; "transmitting images is more difficult than taking the helm," he reported. But he fixed the engine, only to get knocked down twice early January. By now, Saito was cold, and his foot frostbitten, the Satellite phone became unusable after passing 50S, radio conditions were poor, and icebergs arrived. The ship was a wreck - a water leak broke out in the centerboard case, but Saito was able to repair the mainsail, climbing on the boom.
Just at the end, worst disaster of them all: Saito's gold ran low - late May, only four cans of beers and one bottle of whisky remained. Saito has typically provided most of his own financial support for his voyages from his life savings after retirement - and he saw the difficulties through. The modest sailor was not well-known in Japan, but he had won special recognition as embodying "The Spirit of Around Alone" at the closing ceremony of the 6th Around Alone Race in 1999. This time around, Saito was met by a huge crowd of press, as he sailed into his home harbor.
Saito stays in our memory for his humble life of great adventures.
Special mention: Grandpa did it again! Pavel Rezvoy, 67
This is the first repeat of an award winner: At 67 years old, Pavel Rezvoy, a geologist from Ukraine, is the oldest rower in the history of ocean rowing. When he, after 62 days, crossed the finish line in Barbados, he arrived as number two of the solo class in ORSARR 2004, only 2,5 days after the 23 years old winner. But then grandpa refused to go home: -"There is nothing to do in Ukraine for senior citizens", he said; left Barbados and rowed to Cuba. For that, he was awarded Best of ExplorersWeb Special Mention in 2004.
November 9, this year, Pavel was going through Custom formalities in Mahe, Seychelles. How he got there? He rowed, of course! Initially, Pavel's son Theodore Rezvoy was attempting the row but had to abort due to injuries. He called dad. The Rezvoy name is at stake, I will finish the row stated Pavel and set off.
The Indian Ocean is considered one of the toughest rows due to high winds and high waves. It has only been rowed two times before. Simon Chalk (GB) rowed a distance of 4027 km in 107 days. Anders Swedlund (Sw) rowed a distance of 4313 km in 64 days.
Grandpa Rezvoy took over his kid's row at Cocos Islands and landed outside the Seychelles - a total distance of 4538 km. He got there after 57 days. The old man had made the fastest as well as the longest Pacific row. And secured the Rezvoy name.
Pavel stays in our memory for his power of will and refusal to retire.
Special mention: Everest climber, artist and polar ace Fedor Konyukhov
On November 24, 2004, Fedor started his round the world single-handed non-stop sail. Fedor Konyukhov 54, went the classical W-E route; sailing around Antarctica - for the most part of the time doubling the ice continent in prevailing winds - alone on a 85 ft maxi-yacht normally operated by a crew of 10-12. Fedor intended to make it in 120 days, planning to spend one month for each ocean. But the trip would last twice the original plan. There were 7-day storms and the boat suffered almost irreparable damage in the quest. Yet what really caught our eye, was Fedor's gutsy spirit.
Fedor's Argos beacon stopped transmitting during the first night at sea - he was offered replacements to be delivered to his boat. But according to the rules from the World Speed Sailing Records, collecting replacement beacons would jeopardize Fedors "without assistance" status. Fedor declined, and charged into the Southern ocean. If something happened, Fedor's life raft would have been a blank spot on the map. But 7 grueling months later, on June 8, 2005 - Fedor sailed back into Falmouth Bay.
In spite of the records, to Fedor, it's all a spiritual journey, and fairness is a part of that. The explorer's tick list is outstanding: An unsupported South Pole ski, supported North Pole crossing (three NP trips all together), crossed the Atlantic 12 times (once in a rowboat!), climbed Everest and the rest of the seven summits, four circumnavigations of the world in a sailboat and rode the Great Silk Path on a camel.
"I am searching for an explanation for the sense of life through my journeys," he says. Born into a family of fishermen in Priazovye, on the Azov Sea, Fedor paints his expeditions. He has created 2,000 autolithographs, lithographs, etchings and pictures, many from his expeditions. Some of them can be purchased on his website.
Fedor stays in our memory as a Renaissance explorer in pursuit of fairness.
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