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30 August 2017

Arctic Rowers’ Expedition Cut Short, Leaving Them Stranded

A couple of weeks ago, we told you about the group of athletes rowing 2000km across the Arctic Ocean to raise money for the construction of a school in the Himalayas. At the time of writing, their venture was going successfully with seven world records already broken and the group running ahead of schedule. However, since then they’ve hit a sea of trouble which has ultimately brought their expedition to a premature end and left them stranded on an island for the foreseeable future.

The problems started not long after we first wrote about the Polar Row venture, with several of the group using social media to update followers on the situation as it happened. Due to the solar-powered nature of their equipment, the crew were left without navigational aids to keep them on course. Rowing conditions in the Arctic were already fairly severe with no sign that anything was likely to improve, so the group decided to veer away from their intended path and head towards the island of Jan Mayen.

This island, located between Norway and Greenland, is only inhabited on a part time basis by the Norwegian Meteorological Institute and Armed Forces, but the Polar Row team were fortunate enough to be welcomed by them with open arms. With the availability of beds, warmth and food, they were able to recuperate and have a think about whether or not they wanted to see their voyage through to the end. After several of the rowers chose to pull out, the expedition was officially brought to an end.

“It’s an easy decision because I want to get home to my family,” wrote Alex Gregory, Olympic champion and one of the Polar Row crew members, on his Twitter page. “Some will see that as a failure, some will see that as not finishing the project, not reaching the ultimate goal, but I do not. I see this as a massive success. A success far greater in fact than I was expecting.”

The athletes were fortunate enough to reach the Arctic ice shelf before their power supplies ran low, meaning the latitude for the world record they’d already set as the first crew to row so far north was extended. It was only once they’d started travelling southwards to Iceland that they encountered the problems that led to them calling time on their voyage.

In response to the decision to cut their venture short, Carlo Facchino wrote on his Facebook page that:

“A successful expedition is also one where everyone goes home safe and in good health to their family and friends […] our expedition now comes to an end having achieved the ultimate in success.”

How long it will take for the rowers to return home is currently unknown as travel to and from Jan Mayen is almost impossible. Private airplanes aren’t allowed to land on the island so the crew are waiting for a ship to pass by that they can hop aboard.

According to Gregory’s Twitter, there may be one such boat arriving in a few days, although they won’t know if there will be space for them until it arrives. For now, they’ll just have to wait it out on the island and let their accomplishments sink in. They may have had to cut their journey short, but eleven world records out of twelve is definitely something worth celebrating. 

James Darvill

James is a passionate scriptwriter and reluctant poet with a talent for the dystopian. His love for cold weather sports and hiking in the winter gives him the enthusiasm for writing about keeping warm.