Top 10 Expeditions of 2019: #7: Barreling Across the Atlantic

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.

What does “adventure” mean, and what does it mean to be adventurous?

According to the Cambridge English Dictionary, it is “an unusual, exciting, and possibly dangerous activity.” Google says it is “an unusual and exciting or daring experience” or to “engage in daring or risky activity.”

None of these definitions seem to catch the essence of this thing they call adventure. A person can do something unusual, exciting, dangerous or risky without necessarily being adventurous.

Travel blogger Anna Faustino says it’s “going out of your comfort zone to open yourself up to the experiences and beauty that life gives you.” Getting closer but still hasn’t nailed it.

According to people hacker and social engineer Jenny Radcliffe, “adventure is the pursuit of life.” No, it’s much more than that.

While adventure may involve an activity that is dangerous, unusual or exciting, and may also mean leaving behind your comfort zone, it’s also about chasing the unknown, doing something just to see what will happen and never knowing where it will take you.

Now that’s adventure.

Our next expedition of 2019 sums up adventure, and the essence of being adventurous, in its purest form. Not only was it unusual and audacious, it was risky as well. It involved chasing the unknown, doing something just to see what would happen and not knowing how it would end.

The adventure was that of 72-year-old French adventurer and former paratrooper, Jean-Jacques Savin.

Savin set out from the Canary Islands last Christmas in a reinforced, resin-coated plywood barrel. Guided only by currents and winds, without an engine or other assistance, he was picked up 127 days and 5,800km later at the tiny Caribbean Island of St. Eustatia, near the Dominican Republic. He had just completed a solo crossing of the Atlantic Ocean.


His journey was inspired by Alain Bombard. In 1952, the French doctor traveled alone from the Canary Islands to Barbados in a rubber inflatable, without any food or water. He ate raw fish and drank their fluid for water. He also drank a limited amount of saltwater.

Savin’s more solid vessel included a sleeping bunk, kitchen, storage and a porthole in the floor through which he was able to watch passing fish. The capsule was built to withstand waves and accidental run-ins with whales or large fish. A solar panel generated power for communications.

He survived on freeze-dried food, fresh fish and supplies offered by passing ships. Savin managed to find room in his three-metre capsule for a bottle of Sauternes white wine and a block of foie gras for New Year’s Eve. He also smuggled aboard a bottle of Saint-Émilion red for his 72nd birthday in January.

If that’s not adventure, then I don’t know what is.