6 Men Cross World's Most Perilous Passage in Rowboat

They made it across Drake Passage in 13 days
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 30, 2019 12:51 AM CST
6 Men Cross World's Most Perilous Passage in Rowboat
This image released by Discovery shows a scene from “"The Impossible Row," documenting endurance athlete Colin O’Brady and his crew's crossing of the treacherous icy waters of The Drake Passage by rowboat.   (Discovery via AP)

As freezing water thrashed their rowboat in some of the most treacherous waters in the world, six men fought for 13 days to make history, becoming the first people to traverse the infamous Drake Passage with nothing other than sheer manpower. They dodged icebergs, held their breaths as giant whales breached near their small boat and rode building-sized waves while rowing 24 hours a day toward Antarctica. The team of men from four countries finished crossing the Drake Passage on Wednesday in just under two weeks after pushing off from the southern tip of South America. Besides the threat to their lives, the men labored under grueling conditions. Their 29-foot rowboat, named the Ohana, had to be in constant motion to avoid capsizing. That meant three men would row for 90 minutes while the other three rested, still cold and wet.

"You’re rowing inside an open hold, 40-foot sea waves are splashing in your face, near-freezing water is splashing over the bow," 34-year-old Colin O'Brady of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, one of the six men on the boat, tells the AP. "It was quite harrowing," he says. "By the end, we all lost a good amount of weight and were delirious from the sleep deprivation." The toughest part for O'Brady's fellow rower, Jamie Douglas-Hamilton of Scotland, was the constant bombardment from the elements. "We were hit by winds from every single direction ... and the seas down here are very violent," he says. The other four rowers are from California, North Dakota, Iceland, and South Africa. Discovery documented the journey while following the men in a larger, motorized boat.

(More Antarctica stories.)

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