WORLD RECORD ATLANTIC ROW POSTPONED
AFTER WARNINGS FROM ICE EXPERTS
Disappointed Roz Savage and Andrew ‘Mos’ Morris postpone plans to
row 2,200 miles and arrive in London for the Olympic Games
Icebergs could easily punch a hole through their hull, duo warned
Two British rowers set to launch a world record-breaking attempt to cross the North Atlantic today postponed their expedition after severe warnings from Canadian ice experts who advise the project. The pair, Roz Savage and Andrew Morris, are in Newfoundland, on Canada’s east coast, where they have been waiting for the right weather conditions to begin their 2,200-mile voyage.
But local experts warned them about the scale of local ice movements, following an event two years ago in which a large chunk of ice, calculated by scientists to be 40 metres thick, broke away from the glacier in Greenland.
Experts said waters off Newfoundland were now filled with fragmented shards of ice or “bergy bits”, icebergs in the water.
If the duo’s 24-foot rowing boat, named Bojangles, were to collide with the largely submerged ice shards, some of which weigh up to 10 tonnes and are bigger than a double-decker London bus, it could prove catastrophic and risk capsizing their vessel or fracturing its hull.
The British team were also told that Newfoundland fishing boats working at this time of year keep a spotter on watch at all times to avoid collision with bergy bits.
Rowers face backwards, making it hard to spot ice hazards ahead. Savage and Morris planned to row and sleep alternately, maintaining a two-hours-on, two-hours off rota during the row, leaving no time for iceberg spotting. The risk of collision with icebergs would be greater overnight during hours of darkness.
Savage, Britain’s most famous ocean rower and environmental campaigner, who is already a multi Guinness World Record holder, and the first woman in the world to row three oceans, the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans, said she felt “sad” that the expedition had been called off.
Roz Savage said: “Looking to our heritage of British explorers, we see Shackleton who had to abort his mission but brought all his men back safely. And we see Scott who pushed on to his goal regardless of the warning signs, and he and his men perished. We’d rather be Shackletons than Scotts.
“I weighed up the pros and cons of going. I had seven points on each side. But when one of the cons is ‘risk of death significantly greater than anticipated’, you have to take that one pretty seriously.
“You can’t fight Mother Nature, especially on the ocean. This year the odds were stacked against us, and I suspect I know who would have won.”
Savage, an award-winning environmental campaigner, added: “Local ice experts advising us say a large chunk of ice from Greenland broke away two years ago, and that tide of ice is now reaching the waters off Newfoundland. One expert reckoned that we have just about a 100 per cent chance of hitting a chunk of ice. If we end up in the 2-degree water we would have virtually no chance of survival.
“In these circumstances it would seem foolish to proceed. We are now considering our options, but it seems almost certain that we will not be rowing this year. I am sad about this, as we were on track for an amazing expedition.”
Andrew Morris said: “It’s hugely disappointing but we were here to do something inspiring, not something stupid. We also feel a sense of responsibility as role models towards the younger generation. But Bojangles will be no match for sharp, compacted, several-thousand-year-old ice.
“It’s not been an easy decision to make, especially in view of all the amazing support we have received from our many volunteers and friends. Roz and I owe a huge debt of gratitude to all our supporters in the US, UK and Newfoundland.
“Based on what the team has seen out here, we’ll be bringing the message about global warming home to the UK.”
The unusually high amount of ice in the waters off Newfoundland is due to major chunk of ice, about four times the size of Manhattan island, calving from Greenland’s Petermann Glacier in 2010.
The 251-square-kilometre “ice island”, which broke from Greenland’s north-western coast, was the largest iceberg to form in the Arctic since 1962.
It was monitored by researcher Alun Hubbard, of the Centre for Glaciology at Aberystwyth University, who studied the ice acceleration. He said last year he had been “completely unprepared for the gob-smacking scale of the ice break-up”.
Scientists in America have also warned that, due to global warming, Greenland is losing ice mass at an increasing rate, dumping more icebergs into the ocean because of warming temperatures. Richard Alley, a geosciences professor at Pennsylvania State University, alerted Congressmen to the danger when he addressed a briefing held by the House of Representatives committee on energy independence and global warming in August 2010.
Cheshire-born clergyman’s daughter Roz Savage and Andrew Morris, a business entrepreneur from Nottinghamshire, had already been delayed by weather forecasters who said local winds would prevent them from getting the expedition underway for some days.
Had the row gone ahead, it would have earned them a place in the Guinness Book of Records as the first mixed pair to row the route. It would also have been the first time in history that rowers have crossed the Atlantic and continued their journey all the way to London.
Savage and Morris had planned to row up the Bristol Channel and the River Thames, arriving in the capital in time for the opening of the 2012 Olympic Games.
The expedition’s Project Director, Richard Mayon-White, who rowed the Atlantic himself in 2005, explained: “The conditions this year are exceptional. By this time, in a normal year, the ice would be much further north and the way would be clear to depart from Newfoundland.
“We were not able to make a decision about the ice until we’d seen the water conditions at close quarters in Newfoundland. Our local ice experts who advise the project made it clear that the extent of the ice made departure impossible at this time.”
Following the postponement of the expedition, named The OAR Project (www.oar2012.com), no decision has yet been taken about its future. Mr Mayon-White added: “The team plan to monitor the ice conditions this winter with a view to possibly rescheduling the expedition in 2013.”
Environmental campaigner Savage, 44, who stands just 5 ft 3 ins tall and weighs only nine stone, has been honoured as a United Nations Climate Hero, and is also listed among the Top Twenty Great British Adventurers, and was named Adventurer of the Year by National Geographic in 2010.
Notes to Editors
For more information please contact:
The official Olympic Atlantic Row (OAR) expedition site is www.oar2012.com
Roz Savage’s website is www.rozsavage.com
For photos of Roz Savage for free media use see http://www.flickr.com/photos/rozsavage