Radix Journal - Fedor Konyukhov Reaches the Oceanic Pole of Inaccessibility

Fedor Konyukhov Reaches the Oceanic Pole of Inaccessibility
By Nick Allen 19/02/2019 11:35 am

Russian rower, Fedor Konyukhov, has passed through the Oceanic Pole of Inaccessibility — a milestone of human achievement and endurance. Heading into the dangerous second-half of his four-month trip, Fedor is rowing into one of the wildest stretches of water on the planet. Fedor’s son, Oscar, explains the conditions he’s facing in the Southern Ocean.

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Fedor's Konyukhov boat Akros, ready to head out from Port Chalmers | Copyright: Radix Nutrition 2019Fedor is mid-way through the 10,200 km journey, rowing from New Zealand to Chile. His current level of physical isolation makes rescue almost impossible. The Pole of Inaccessibility, found in the Southern Ocean, represents the most distant point from any coastline on earth. Currently, Fedor is more than 1,600kms from the closest earth-bound humans. Astronauts aboard the International Space Station, orbiting 435kms above the planet, are likely to be Fedor’s nearest neighbours. 

Conditions have been more difficult than he anticipated. An experienced yachtsman, Fedor knows how to manage a yacht in the Southern Ocean. However, in a 9m-long ocean rowing boat, Fedor is unable to employ the tactics he’s learned as a sailor. Oscar Konyukhov, Fedor’s son, explained that in a yacht, you’re able to sail downwind, ahead of oncoming storms. This strategy allows you to avoid the worst of approaching weather. 

By comparison, a rowing-boat is much less mobile. Unable to row ahead of storms, Fedor’s boat AKROS is left vulnerable to the full force of the weather. In an unusually stormy season, Fedor has encountered gale-force winds, waves higher than 6 metres tall, heavy snow, ice, and hail. During the most intense parts of a storm, Fedor must lay down in the sleeping compartment and use his body to balance the rowing-boat. This is to prevent the boat from capsizing.

When the sea conditions are suitable, and it’s not raining, Fedor is out on deck, rowing night and day. After all, sleep in the ‘Roaring Forties’ and ‘Furious Fifties’ is difficult to come by. When it’s rough, the motion of the boat and the sound of the wind makes sleep difficult. Fedor tries to find rest during calmer moments and blocks out the sound with music – particularly the songs of Russian icon Vladimir Vysotsky. Heading south around Cape Horn and into autumn, Fedor expects the weather to deteriorate and become colder.

Fedor's Konyukhov, in his boat Akros during a sea-trial in Port Chalmers | Copyright: Radix Nutrition 2019Despite all this, Fedor feels the journey is passing quickly — a fact he attributes to his age. Recently turned 67 years, Fedor thinks that his mission is a project for old people. In a conversation with his son, Oscar, Fedor commented: “If you’re young, you’ll go mad – things go very slowly. There’s a lot of waiting for favourable conditions. It’s not about how strong you are – it’s about whether you have the mentality to survive.”

Fedor also loves the expansiveness and freedom of the Southern Ocean. Without borders or human-made barriers, he enjoys the privilege of travelling for thousands of kilometres, unimpeded. Also, the waves afford him amazing views. Riding the biggest waves, he can see across the tops and enjoy the full scale of the ocean. 

Reaching this point, Fedor now holds the record for the greatest distance and longest time spent rowing solo in the Southern Ocean (the previous record: 2,848 km / 59 days, held by Frenchman Joesph Le Guen). He hopes to arrive in Chile at the end of March 2019, completing the first leg of his attempt to circumnavigate the globe solo, in a rowing-boat.

Follow Fedor's journey online, and through Instagram and <href="https://www.facebook.com/FKonyukhov/" target="_blank">Facebook. 

Words and photos by Nick Allen

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Fedor Konyukhov and Radix CEO Mike Rudling at Port Chalmers | Copyright: Radix Nutrition, 2019