Solo circumnavigator Erden Eruç, 60, of Wauna, made landfall on Guam Feb. 12 after 208 days rowing from California by way of Oahu on his second human-powered trip around the world. He has rowed 6,212 miles since launching from Crescent City, Calif., last June and stopping for repairs in Hawaii in September.
“I was tempted to aim for the south coast of Rota Island on Wednesday night (Feb. 9) to drop anchor and have a good long sleep,” he wrote in his blog. “I slept a total of five hours in one-hour increments that night, then only one hour and 15 minutes during the night before arrival. The afternoon winds on Friday (Feb. 11) were gradually increasing (to 20 knots) as I descended down the northwest coast of Guam. It was essential that I fight to remain on course.”
Eruç was approximately 3,091 miles west of Waikiki Jan. 26, rowing toward Hong Kong, when he made the decision to head for Guam, 480 miles to his southwest.
Contrary winds, including an unpredictable front generated by the Tonga volcanic eruption Jan. 14, pushed Eruç too far off course to reach the Luzon Strait between the Philippines and Taiwan for him to continue to Hong Kong. Doing so would have made him the first solo rower to make it from mainland North America to mainland Asia as he continues his second human-powered circumnavigation.
Eruç relaunched from Guam Feb. 21 to continue his journey, rerouting south of the Philippines and west around Borneo to land in Singapore, on the southeast Asian mainland, a route of 3,200 miles.
“This crossing is the first step on my way to Mount Everest,” he said in an interview by satellite phone from his rowboat Dec. 7 livestreamed by The Explorers Club, one of his sponsors (See sidebar, "In His Own Words"). “This is part of my six summits project; so far, I have climbed three, what remains are Everest, Elbrus and Aconcagua.”
After reaching Singapore, Eruç plans to bicycle to and summit Everest in the fall of 2022, then bike west across central Asia around the top of the Caspian Sea to Georgia to climb Mount Elbrus, the highest peak in Europe. From there he will pedal south to Turkey, his homeland, and west across Europe to rejoin his rowboat in Portugal. He will then row to Brazil and bike southwest across the continent to Argentina and summit Aconcagua, the tallest mountain in South America, then bike and kayak north back to Crescent City, completing his second human-powered circumnavigation after climbing the last of the highest mountains on six continents, a goal he set with his first circumnavigation in 2012.
Eruç made his first circumnavigation in 2012 after five years and 41,153 miles. He became the first person to row across three oceans; the first to row from Australia to Africa; the first to cross any ocean from the southern to northern hemisphere; and he has rowed further across the Atlantic than anyone else, just one of his 15 world records.
His self-righting rowboat is 25 feet long and weighs 1,500 pounds empty; he usually rows at a speed of about 2 knots. There is a small cabin with one bunk and storage under the rowing station for 26 gallons of water and 150 pounds of dehydrated food. Other than satellite communication, he is alone on the ocean. There are no support vessels, but he has a ground team that creates weather and current models and arranges logistics.
Eruç has faced tougher than expected conditions on this expedition. He struggled for weeks to escape northwest winds pinning him to the coast of California in June and July, then lost three weeks stopping in Waikiki in September to repair his solar-powered electronics and desalinator.
“The water-maker, the desalination unit, is a critical piece of equipment,” he said. “It needs to keep working for me to make a safe crossing. I have a handheld spare as well, but I’d rather be rowing than pumping. It can make about 6 or 8 liters of water a day, one drop at a time, which is pretty much what I need. I use that to rehydrate my food, for drinking, and to rinse salt from me and my clothes. Salt is a very irritating substance and basically cooks the skin if it’s not regularly rinsed off.”
After relaunching from Hawaii Oct. 7, Eruç capsized in a storm Dec. 3 while strapped to his bunk.
“The boat rights itself quite readily as long as the cabin is not flooded,” he said. “The wave had to be five feet or six feet higher than the side of the rowboat. It just came rushing in, just shoved in on the port side and as it went over it snapped the lines I had used to tie two spare oars.”
The Jan. 15 volcanic eruption in Tonga, 3,600 miles away from Eruç, created its own weather system of strong southeast winds that further complicated his course.
“This was an interesting year and in fact I’m still suffering from it right now,” he said. “I have long fetch swells coming in from the east-northeast and that’s the result of a high pressure system that left Siberia-Mongolia and extended very far east, creating a lot of strong winds, and is also due to the jet stream that is misplaced further south. These are difficult problems.”
Eruç is an ambassador of Ocean Recovery Alliance, a nongovernmental organization based in Hong Kong fighting plastic pollution. As he rows, he is producing educational content about the environment, climate change and survival at sea that he transmits to classrooms around the world. His own nonprofit, Around-n-Over, has already donated over $100,000 to rural schools in his homeland, Turkey.
“Around-n-Over is trying to reach classrooms to inspire kids to take care of Mother Earth,” he said.
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