Fyodor Konyukhov: The World’s Busiest Adventurer Begins His Latest Expedition

Fyodor Konyukhov, the world’s most prolific and versatile explorer, is currently in Dunedin, New Zealand, waiting to launch his attempt to row across the Southern Ocean.

The voyage comprises three stages and covers an astounding 27,000km, more than twice the diameter of the earth. The first leg covers 10,000km from Dunedin to Cape Horn, in Chile. The second leg, from Cape Horn to Cape Leeuwin in Western Australia, begins in December, 2019. The final leg from Cape Leeuwin back to Dunedin launches in late 2020. Each stage takes around 120 days.

Fedor Konyukhov checks his boat Akros before leaving. Photo: Oscar Konyukhov

A graduate of the Odessa Maritime College, majoring in navigation and maritime engineering, the 66 year-old ordained Ukrainian Orthodox priest has previously rowed, always alone, across numerous oceans. A few highlights of his ocean adventures:

  • 2002: 5,500km across the Atlantic Ocean in a seven-meter boat.
  • 2007: Circumnavigated Antarctica in 102 days.
  • 2014: the first solo non-stop crossing of Pacific Ocean from east to west. In the process, he set new Guinness World Records in the K9 rowboat category, for both duration (159 days, 16 hours, 58 min) and distance (17,408 km).

Konyukhov’s rowing exploits make up only a portion of the most extensive CV in perhaps all exploration history. Best known for his solo, non-stop, round-the-world balloon flight in 2016 (in a record 11 days 4 hours 20 minutes), other achievements include:

  • The first and only person in the world to have reached the five extreme Poles on earth: the North Pole (three times), the South Pole, the Pole of Inaccessibility in the Arctic Ocean, Mount Everest (sometimes known as the alpinist’s Pole) (twice) and sailed around the world via Cape Horn (Yachtsman’s Pole) (four times).
  • First person to sail solo around Antarctica.
  • The first Russian to complete the Seven Summits.

To date, the nonstop adventurer has completed more than 50 expeditions, sailing, trekking, rowing, sledding, cycling, skiing, hot-air ballooning, rafting, and by camel, horse and four-wheel-drive. For a full list of Konyukhov’s expeditions, click here.

Fyodor Konyukhov makes land in Mooloolaba, Queensland after 160 days rowing across the Pacific Ocean. Photo: abc.net.au

He is a Gold Medal Laureate and Honorary Academician of the Russian Arts Academy — as an artist, he has produced more than 3,000 paintings and lithographs. He has also authored 17 books and is a member of both Russia’s Journalists Union and Writers Union.

The Southern Ocean (also known as the Antarctic Ocean), is the conventional name for the southern waters of three oceans – the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian. Together, they encircle Antarctica to form a “fifth ocean”. The ocean below 40 degrees south, known as the Roaring Forties, has the most powerful winds on earth. The cyclonic motion of storms travelling eastwards around Antarctica are very intense, due to the temperature contrast between the ice and open ocean. This is also one of the most isolated parts of the planet, making search and rescue exceedingly difficult.

His nine-metre rowboat, Akros, was designed by Briton Phil Morrison, who also did the craft used in Konyukhov’s previous ocean crossings. The bow includes a “crush box” and two watertight compartments capable of storing up to 200 days of provisions and equipment. The open cockpit was built to be as small as possible, to minimize the risk of a rower washing overboard.  The aft section has three watertight partitions containing a navigation room, a kitchen and a cabin for resting. The vessel has three independent power generation systems, including solar, wind turbine and an innovative EFOY fuel cell power plant. 

The Akros design. Photo: konyukhov.ru

This expedition is only one of a number of major projects that the ever-restless senior citizen is planning in the next few years.

In April 2019, he plans a tilt at the hot-air balloon altitude record set 13 years ago by Vijaypat Singhania, when he climbed to 21,027m over Mumbai, in India. Konyukhov will pilot the world’s largest-ever hot-air balloon: At 3.6 million cubic feet, it is more than twice the size of that used by Singhania. He aims to reach 25,000m, and if favourable conditions prevail, he may soar as high as 29,500m. The attempt will take place at Northam, about 100km northeast of Perth, in Western Australia.

Also in late 2020, he plans to complete the first solar powered, nonstop, around-the-world flight. Maintaining an altitude of 12 to 14km and an average speed of 210kph, he will travel 35,000km in 150 hours. The plane, suitably called the Albatross, has a wingspan of 25 metres and a top speed of 259kph.

He leaves Dunedin on his current rowing expedition around November 20 and will arrive in Chile from mid- to late-February.