Top 10 Expeditions of 2019: #5: Rowing New Zealand-Chile

Over the last 12 months, ExplorersWeb has documented incredible adventures in climbing, cycling, running, walking, skiing and anything involving force of will and dedication to a dream in the outdoors. As this year comes to a close, we present our countdown of the Top 10 Expeditions of 2019.

For five tumultuous months, veteran Russian explorer Fyodor Konyukhov rowed from Port Chalmers, New Zealand to the Diego Ramirez Islands off Chile.

According to the Ocean Rowing Society, the now 68-year-old Konyukhov set six world records on his crossing:

  • The oldest person to row any ocean solo — 66 years 359 days when he began
  • The oldest person to row oceans three times. The Russian adventurer also crossed the Atlantic east to west in 2002 and the Pacific east to west in 2013-14.
  • The first crossing of the South Pacific from west to east
  • The first person to row the Pacific Ocean in both directions
  • The southernmost (recorded) latitude reached in a rowboat at 56 degrees 45 minutes and 28 seconds, off the coast of the Diego Ramirez Islands in Chile. (South Georgia Island, the end point of Ernest Shackleton’s famous survival row, is actually two degrees further north.)
  • The southernmost route on any ocean between the most southerly start (45.77S 170.72E) and finish (56.65S 68.55W) of all ocean crossings

His journey covered 7,475km in 154 days, 13 hours and 37 minutes.

Konyukhov had planned to complete the journey in 120 days, but a number of cyclones impeded his progress. Winds of up to 90kph and waves nine metres high pounded his boat, Akros, and he lost more than 100km at one stage. At the time, Konyukhov commented, “The ocean has merged with the sky. The horizon is gone. There is no ocean, no sky. Solid flying water. If I was climbing Mount Everest, I would be in the Death Zone.”



The Southern Ocean (also known as the Antarctic Ocean), refers to the southern waters of three oceans –- the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian. Together, they encircle Antarctica to form a “fifth ocean”. The section below 40 degrees south, known as the Roaring Forties, has the most powerful winds on earth.

This is also one of the most isolated parts of the planet, making search and rescue exceedingly difficult. The Drake Passage, between Antarctica and the southern tip of South America, where Konyukhov completed his journey, has the wildest seas on earth. He ended his great crossing in 40 to 45 knot winds and 6 to 7 metre waves.

The journey marks the first stage one of a planned 27,000km row around Antarctica in the Southern Ocean. The second leg will take him from Cape Horn to Cape Leeuwin in Western Australia in 2020, followed by a final leg from Cape Leeuwin back to his starting point near Dunedin, New Zealand.