Spanish Adventurer to Row to Antarctica. And That’s Just the Beginning

Lots of explorers embark on Antarctic expeditions, but few have been as ambitious as the 2023 mission planned by Antonio de la Rosa.

The Spanish adventurer presented the details of his multi-pronged journey this week at the Spanish Geographical Society (SGE). Starting in January 2023, he plans to row 1,000km across the Drake Passage from the tip of South America to Antarctica.

Then de la Rosa will rig a sail on his small craft for another 2,000km before crossing a final 50km on foot.

The first leg may be the hardest. The Drake Passage can be the roughest body of water on Earth.

His Antarctic adventure will likely require 40 days to complete. The Spanish Geographical Society said a feat like this has never been done.

“If Antonio de la Rosa completes it, it could be a true achievement of courage and determination worthy of the explorers of other times,” the organization said.


Facing dangerous seas — alone

Few parts of the ocean elicit as much dread among sailors as the Drake Passage. Five professional rowers and athlete Colin O’Brady discovered that in 2020 when they crossed the tumultuous sea in an eight-metre boat. Decades earlier, adventurer Ned Gillette and crew also rowed to Antarctica. These have been the only previous times a party has dared to row the Drake Passage.

It also became one of the most terrifying ordeals of the Shackleton survival story, as the crew barely survived the Passage’s titanic waves.

Now, de la Rosa intends to face that fury all by himself.

The Spanish athlete said he’s been training for several years for this expedition. But in some ways, he’s been preparing for it all his life. De la Rosa enjoyed a long career in quadrathlons, which combine swimming, canoeing, cycling, and running.

He has also pulled off several previous adventures. Those include crossing the Pacific Ocean in a paddle surf boat in 2019, traversing 1,000km across Finland in 2018, and completing the first solo navigation of the Arctic Circle in 2016, using only an inflatable paddle-surf board.

On Tuesday, de la Rosa spoke frankly about the dangers he will face, and how he hopes to overcome them.

“Sixty to seventy percent of the chances of success for this expedition are psychological,” he said, according to La Vanguardia. “In the end, you have to be physically prepared, but when those waves of eight or 10 metres arrive and you can’t paddle, that’s where psychological strength comes into play.”


Following in Shackleton’s footsteps

Rowing 1,000km across the Drake Passage solo would be enough for most — but not for de la Rosa.

On reaching the Antarctic Peninsula, he will attach a triangular sail and navigate to Elephant Island, then continue to South Georgia island.

Elephant Island to South Georgia was the penultimate leg of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s incredible journey of self-rescue in 1914. When de la Rosa arrives on South Georgia, he hopes to trek across the island, as Shackleton did, as the final portion of his own journey.

You can follow along with de la Rosa’s journey through the live tracker on his website.

“Now all that remains is to wait with determination and a lot of optimism,” de la Rosa said.

Andrew McLemore

An award-winning journalist and photographer, Andrew McLemore brings more than 14 years of experience to his position as Associate News Editor for Lola Digital Media. Andrew is also a musician, climber and traveler who currently lives in Medellin, Colombia. When he’s not writing, playing gigs or exploring the outdoors, he’s hanging out with his dog Campana.