Briton hailed over rowing record
Published 05/06/2010 | 11:26
A British environmentalist has become the first woman to row alone across the Pacific Ocean, receiving a rock star welcome in Papua New Guinea after finishing a near 8,000-mile journey that nearly claimed her life.
Thousands turned out to welcome Roz Savage, 42, as she rowed her 23ft boat, Brocade, toward Madang on Friday.
Several people paddled canoes alongside her as she cruised into the harbor, where well-wishers adorned her with garlands.
"I'm already starting to think about the next one," said Ms Savage, who will rest in Papua New Guinea for a month. She had previously crossed the Atlantic Ocean in 103 days and uses her trips to promote environmental causes.
The Pacific endeavour was meant to raise awareness about climate change and plastic debris polluting the ocean. She wants people to use biodegradable rubbish bags and reusable shopping bags.She estimates she made 2.5 million oar strokes during her 250-day trip, which was broken up into three different legs.
She set off from San Francisco on May 25 2008, and rowed 2,900 miles over 99 days to Hawaii. On May 22 2009, she left Hawaii and rowed 3,158 miles - an estimated one million oar strokes - before reaching the tiny South Pacific nation of Kiribati in September. She left Kiribati on April 19.
Although the weather was mostly calm, and her biggest health concern was heat rash, there was one moment during the journey when she became separated from her boat and feared she might drown. Her boat hook fell overboard, and by the time she had taken off her hat, iPod earplugs and sunglasses to swim after it, it had drifted far away.
When she reached it and began swimming back to the boat, she was already tiring. She eventually abandoned the hook, but the boat was drifting farther away, and by the time she climbed back on board, she was perilously close to drowning, she said."That was a really, really dumb thing to do," she said. "I will certainly, certainly never do it again."
Her boat was equipped with a satellite phone and a desalination machine, allowing her to convert saltwater into drinkable water. She ate dried fruit, nuts, some freeze-dried meals and grew her own bean sprouts on board in a small pot. She was gleeful when locals welcomed her with a platter of fresh fruit upon her arrival in Madang. "I did some serious damage to that," she joked.
Ms Savage estimates she lost about 22lbs during the trip, and said the heat was brutal, reaching 41C, "which is - for an English person - quite debilitating".She said she is hoping to conquer the Indian Ocean next, rowing from Perth, Australia, to Mauritius next year.