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Traveller Konyukhov reaches area of 'relative inaccessibility' in Pacific

January 31, 2014, 8:54 UTC+3 VLADIVOSTOK
1 pages in this article

VLADIVOSTOK, January 31, 7:03 /ITAR-TASS/. Russian traveller Fyodor Konyukhov, who is crossing the Pacific Ocean solo in a rowboat, has reached an area of “relative inaccessibility” in the Pacific, being equidistant from South America and French Polynesia, with no piece of land seen around for thousands of miles.

“This is the emptiest part of my voyage,” he said by satellite phone.

His boat Tourgoyak is about 700 km south of the equator. Fyodor says temperatures in the tropics chance abruptly. “It’s cool at night and I have to put on pants and a windbreaker, and sometimes even a knitted cap, but it is hot during the day, up to 30 degrees, and I sweat profusely but can’t take off clothes or I will run the risk of getting scorched,” he said.

Konyukhov admitted that “it’s particularly hard at night when there is no Moon, it’s pitch dark, and not a single port or city around for a thousand miles.”

“Rowing helps to keep my mind off this utter darkness but as soon as I stop working - I get scared. At night, it’s particularly unnerving, when I can’t even see the oar spoons which are only three meters away. I can hear the ocean, the waves, the wind, but I can see nothing,” he said earlier.

“I’m starting to count the days until I arrive in the waters of French Polynesia. It's my main focus to get to and pass through the islands, or rather, away from the islands. I don't want to get ahead of myself in predicting my passage between the Tuamotus and the Marquesas Islands. Everything depends on the ocean and weather. These two elements can change everything for me in an instant,” Fyodor said.

He said that the wind and the current were in his favour at the moment, although periodically, the wind gets him from the north and makes it difficult to hold course, which is 270 degrees westward. “The northern wind is temporary, and according to the weather reports it should change from the east soon. The waves have been large and I can only get a glimpse of the horizon when Tourgoyak is lifted by one them. There is a mere 30 centimetres between the surface of the ocean and my working area. I’m seeing some flying fish which means I’m entering the warm subtropical waters of the Pacific. They are constantly flying through the air a few feet above the surface, with their pectoral fins spread out like wings. Watching them fly is mesmerising and surreal. They perhaps think the same about me and my carbon made wings which I am constantly dipping in and out of the water to propel the boat,” the traveller said.

Konyukhov said he had seen dolphins for the first time since the start of his voyage. “Unfortunately, they quickly got bored with Tourgoyak’s slow speed and lack of bow wave. After 2-3 minutes of accompanying me they disappeared into the ocean. By midday I was greeted by a flock of the white-tailed tropicbirds. I’ve seen these birds many times during my circumnavigations, when they would escort me into the tropics. Today there were as many as 20 birds, and once again, I admired how beautiful they were. Just like the dolphins they weren’t particularly interested in me either, but were looking for small fish hiding in the shadow of Tourgoyak’s hull,” he said.

He described his daily routine as beginning with “a prayer, and a quick snack, followed by a rowing routine with breaks here and there, maintenance, and another stretch of rowing. I finish the day with another prayer before night falls. Things are not much different during the night. I must be honest - I enjoy my life out here. The ocean I’m experiencing right now is unattainable for most people. To see and live in this ocean vastness is truly amazing.”

Konyukhov started off in Concon, Chile, on December 22, 2013. His boat Tourgoyak had to manoeuvre off and on the main route to stay on course. Specialists say that by going in arc he will have to travel from 10,500 to 11,500 miles to reach Brisbane in the end.

However, if Konyukhov had tried to sail along the straight route, he would never have reached Australia because of headwinds and currents. The traveller chose to go in a wide arc. Starting in Concon, Konyukhov headed up north to the point where currents turn towards Australia.

In the Pacific Ocean, the Peruvian Current (Humboldt) passes along the coast of South America from south to north. It is one of the largest ocean currents in the world. Konyukhov’s goal was to catch the Peruvian Current and ride to 15-20 degree of the Southern Latitude. There he will enter the zone of the southerly Trade Winds which will allow him to turn west towards Australia.

A map of the Pacific Ocean currents clearly shows that one can arrive to Australia by means of the Trade Winds while slowly navigating south. Konyukhov will have to work hard to not be caught up in the East Australian Current which would divert him to New Zealand. However, if Konyukhov lingers too much in the Trade Winds there will be a high risk of getting swept into the Equatorial Current which would turn him back to south-east, the Ocean Rowing Society International said.

The boat is equipped with a special radio beacon that automatically transmits its bearings, thus allowing Rowing Society specialists to calculate the distance Konyukhov travels every day.

Over the past 40 days, Konyukhov has travelled about 4,500 km (about 2,400 miles), but there are still about 10,400 km (about 5,500 miles) to go to Brisbane. He hoped to get from Chile to Australia in 200 days, but he is not so sure about that now.

If successful Konyukhov would be the ninth person in the world to row the Pacific solo and the second person to row the South Pacific solo.

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