Decision: North Atlantic Row Postponed

I had hoped that this would be a final blog to bid farewell to dry land before we started our voyage across the North Atlantic.

Rowing past the iceberg in Tapper's Cove today

But if you’ve been following my blog over the last couple of weeks you will have noticed our growing concern about the unusually large quantities of ice off the coast of Newfoundland, largely due to the huge chunk of ice that broke off a Greenland glacier 2 years ago which has now drifted south into Canadian waters, breaking up into a minefield of icebergs as it goes.

Given our immovable deadline of reaching London in time for the start of the Olympics, we unfortunately don’t have the option to wait until the ice dissipates, which will take another couple of weeks at least. After much soul searching, it is with regret that we have come to the difficult decision to postpone our row for this year. The chances of hitting ice – and the serious consequences of a punctured hull in freezing North Atlantic waters – meant that the risk to our safety was simply unacceptable.
I weighed up the pros and cons of carrying on with the row. There were 7 points on each side. But when one of the “con” points is “risk of death significantly higher than anticipated”, you really have to give that one a higher weighting.

Note the iceberg on the horizon

One of the most agonising aspects of this decision was the huge amount of support we have received from our many friends and sponsors who have contributed time, energy, money, and provisions to our project. We struggled with this, feeling we owed it to our supporters to complete what we set out to do. But as the chances of a successful completion dwindled, we concluded that our supporters would probably prefer to see us exercise our professional judgement rather than persevere against the odds. We would have loved to share a glorious success story with you, but hope that you will understand and respect our reasons.
As my crewmate Andrew put it, “We came here to do something inspiring, not something stupid.” We take our responsibilities as potential role models very seriously, and did not want to set a bad example by recklessly putting ourselves in unnecessary danger. Nor did we want to have to call on the Canadian Coastguard for assistance. That would do nothing for our own reputations, nor enhance the attitude towards future ocean rowers wishing to leave from St John’s.
It seems ironic to me, as an environmental campaigner, that our bid to row the Atlantic has been scuppered by the disintegration of the Greenland ice sheet, most likely as a consequence of climate change. We will be making this point as we announce the postponement of our row, in the hope that we can at least salvage something meaningful from our disappointment.
We would like to thank you all very much for having supported us and for following our fortunes. One of the silver linings to come out of this project has been the incredible love and support of many wonderful people across two continents. Andrew and I are both tremendously grateful.
We hope that you will continue to watch this space for future announcements of media coverage and events.
With thanks and best wishes
Team OAR
  • Heymissk (Kristian in SF)

    Roz, what a difficult, yet wise decision.  I know, given everything you two have done in the past, that it’s only a matter of time before you both get up to something different but equally fabulous. We are not fair weather fans (good thing!) and we will still be here supporting you when the next adventure comes.

  • John Kay

    Very wise, Roz. The Atlantic will probably still be there next year, and you won’t have the Olympics to distract from your achievement and message.

  • amhey

    I always knew you had good judgment. Onwards and upwards.

    I was out at Ano Nuevo State Park looking at elephant seals today on the Californian coast. I asked the guides what signs of plastic pollution (inspired by you) they’d seen. Once a seal had a toilet seat stuck round his head and another had a face enmeshed in a net. So have you seen or come across any plastic pollution on the shores of Newfoundland?

  • Frank

    I prefer living friends over dead heroes.

  • Jan Kearce

    Goals can be blinding.  So happy that you and Andrew have clear vision.  There is another important journey ahead.

  • Rosalind

    Having followed you for a few years, good decisions are your hallmark.  We will always cheer you on and wish you good luck in future.
    Rosalind in Eugene

  • rozsavage

    Thank you, Kristian. Watch this space!

  • Currincool

    I just wrote yesterday a note for my ‘adventure research project,’ that much of what is called ‘adventure’ is always incorporated with some level of ‘disappointment’…before, during and even after…!  But although this ‘dream’ is not launching … it begins at this moment to spawn the next ‘dream’…!  With the unanticipated life we lead, what comes next may even be better than our previous wildest dreams.  We are all waiting to support your endeavours.  Cheers, Currin in NZ

  • rozsavage

    Actually, I haven’t seen much. There are only 500,000 people here, on a very large island, so relatively little pollution. In fact, the water is beautifully clear.

  • UncaDoug

    Roz, you and Mos are courageous role models for setting out on this journey AND for postponing it, given the circumstances. In honor of a wise and tough decision:

    icebergs and pirates
    life threats undeniable
    thoughtful aversion

    Steer clear, Roz!

  • Cosmosmariner2453

    There are other ways to stop the use of plastic bags!

  • Joan in Atlanta

    A very sound decision, Roz and Andrew, and a very good example for others that you must respect the ocean and the known risks that you take when you put yourself out there. A human in a hull cannot beat an iceberg bit and a big wave.
    Your friend,
    Joan 

  • http://www.facebook.com/Moonshadow2 Cynthia Kruger

    Roz . . . I think you and Mos have made a very wise decision in postponing this expedition.  In so doing you are setting an example for others who would undertake similar journeys, and your consideration of the position you and Mos would be putting the rescue authorities in should a rescue have been necessary is laudatory as well.  Better to postpone to try again another day than to go for broke and lose it all.

    The silver lining that is to be found if any is the ability to use this as part of your environmental campaigns to educate people far and wide.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Moonshadow2 Cynthia Kruger

    . . . and plastic straws
           . . . and other single use plastics

  • amhey

    Definitely a place I want to visit!

  • Ct

    ALOHA ROZ and ANDREW!   good choices… I know this has been a hard decision but a wise decision…  glad you will be there for the Olympics… keep on blogging and rowing!  you are truly an inspiration… hugs, from Oregon…

  • Bruce

    I’m sorry about the turn of events, but I’m happy you exercised good professional judgment. Absolutely the right thing to do if your gut is telling you that. 

  • eglise

    how very wise but  sad…..for all involved.
    here is to the next time :)
    David C

  • Claire in L.A.

    Roz, I am just relieved at your decision. I was worried, frankly, for your safety in the conditions you were describing. I appreciate your (plural) good judgement, and will continue to be a fan/supporter of your endeavours even if you never row another ocean!

  • DogsDontPurr.com

    ((Big Hugs)) I support your decision 100%.  As much as I enjoy reading about your adventures and living them vicariously, there is always a certain amount of nail biting. So I am relieved that you have chosen to take the high road and opted to make this tough decision.

    As they say: When one door closes, another one opens. I am sure there is another door wide open and waiting for you!

  • Sally Angel

    I am so very sorry, Roz.  You must be so very disappointed when you have come so far on this venture.   Still, you have a lifetime ahead to accomplish your goals – and enormous strength of purpose.  You are one of those young people I look to that will help to save the world from the ecological disasters that we have caused and I appreciate everything you have done so far and will do in the future.

    Here’s a hug – you look like you need it!

  • Norm Grayston

    Hi Roz and Andrew,

    Tough decision, although disappointing for both of you, far better to be safe and make the crossing when ice conditions are more favorable for you and the boat…!  I’m sure you will find many opportunities to engage in consciousness raising and awareness raising as the time draws closer to the Olympic torch being lit in London.  I’m glad you are safe, as last year in the Indian was a bit of a nail biter…. John has it right, the Olympics won’t distract you, or overshadow your adventure.  Rest well, both of you.  

    Norm Grayston, aka Norm of the prairies….

  • Bob Tregilus

    Bummer, but a sound decision likely. 

  • Erkki

    “Superior pilots use their superior judgement use  to avoid the necessity of using their superior skills.”  A pilots adage.
     Sylvia Earle gave the commencement  address at our college this weekend. She is a lifelong campaigner  for Ocean ecology. With over 7,000 diving hours under her belt she still holds the world record  for solo female diving at a depth of 1 Km. ” Her Deepness” ( NY Times moniker) meets with Bahamian officials this week to plan marine sanctuaries. At age 78 she provides an shining example of superior judgement. 

  • Caroline Haines

    Roz – this must be such a disappointment for all concerned but I’ve been hoping you’d come to this decision.

    I know you’ve always done your very best to ensure your safety (or as safe as can be with ocean rowing), and this seems like the very best decision. I heard a documentary about the icebergs and the near-to-invisible ‘bergy bits’ the other day and didn’t like the sound of them one bit.

    So far better to live to fight another day – and I’m sure that no-one (least of all Rita!) will think any less of you for this.

    The point you make about the irony of the disintegration of the Greenland ice sheet having a great deal to do with this decision only underlines the environmental message you’ve always brought to all your challenges and I’m sure you’ll find equally inspiring things to do prior to and around the Olympics.

  • rozsavage

    I know Sylvia well. What a fantastic choice for a commencement speaker. I’m sure she was awesome!

  • Outriggerone

    How disappointing, but so no options with all that ice. The “riskometer” needle would have for certain been firmly in the red zone of “unnecessarily silly” with conditions as they are. From my own little jaunts along the coasts, I can gauge things are getting weider-stronger winds, unusual weather, blah, blah, blah. Makes one wonder how much odder things will get, and the possibility of future journeys. I understand there is a huge ice sheet in Antartica that scientists are keeping their eyes on. The risks to navigation are most certainly going to be increasing. Too bad, Roz, the oil companies don’t share your and Andrew’s good judgement. Can you imagine drilling in the Arctic waters and the risks of trying to clean-up a spill under those conditions? And we are still dealing with issues in the much much warmer Gulf. I guess though, the oil guys “riskometer” is broken…

  • OutsideJay

    The ultimate measure of a (wo)man is not where (s)he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where (s)he stands at times of challenge and controversy. ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

    …and we all know where you stand, Roz! 

    No matter where next she rows
    to sea or to port, point ‘er bows
    she’ll make all of us proud
    she’s rather quite loud
    acutely aware of her throes

    :-) 
    Row Girl Row!

  • Carol in Maine

    A well thought out decision Roz.     Will look forward to hearing of your next adventure.   Pop in to Bar Harbor, ME before heading back “across the pond” and I’ll show you around Acadia National Park (another beautiful place)  You’re practically in the neighborhood!

  • Anna from Perth

    Hi Roz. I’ve been cheering you on quietly from the sidelines for many years. You have absolutely made the correct decision to postpone. You made this decision with the good grace, intellect and wisdom that you’ve always used when making tough choices. And you know what? You’ve lived to tell the tale!

    And so the journey continues.

  • stephenstewart

    Hiya Roz,  How about that.  It is unanimous.  All the people who made comments agree you and Andrew and the team made the right choice.  I will keep watching this space.  All the best for the next adventure,      Stephen

  • stephenstewart

    Do you suppose you might try again another year?

  • rozsavage

    How true….

  • rozsavage

    Would have loved to, Carol, but there is actually a direct flight from St John’s to the UK so I am taking that one. But I hope to make it to Maine on some other occasion. I worked there for a summer in 1987 and loved it!

  • Christopher Schmidt

    I too applaud your rationality and too rare willingness to let reason trump pride.

    I agree with Outriggerone that the oil guys’ riskomoter is broken, but would add that governments broke the riskometer, by limiting the oil guys’ liability when things go wrong, and by selling drilling permits in environmentally risky locations in the first place.

    Government routinely promotes risky behavior this way, e.g. by offering flood insurance in areas where private insurers balk, or by underwriting (and even incenting) loans to borrowers or projects who might be denied by unbiased insurance or lending actuaries.

  • Carol

    Safe travels Roz!

  • http://texino.blogspot.com texino

    Last I heard from you Roz, you were hanging up the sweeps rather than damage your health and that of your dear Mum, so I figured this W/E North Atlantic thing was just talk in aid of your anti plastic bag gig: Bottom line is it just too bloody dangerous and if you have to use ice cubes to back out, more power to you.
    Always your pal, Tomas Texino

  • Tone531

    There is nothing like weather and the elements to connect one with reality.  Kind of  “get it right or die” some times.  I am glad you are committed to doing it right.  We need you (both) alive and favorable in the public eye.

    I am doing my part here in Colorado.  Have been bicycling to work and school etc nearly every day for more than forty years. Rain, shine, snow ( 15 bellow zero is my best.  Safely and comfortably is the game and the goal ) so far no ice bergs here.  Always in the back of my mind are your adventures since the Leo Laport/San Francisco to Hawaii days.  Add me to the list of those doing our small part and . . .

    “taking a huge number of tiny steps in the right direction”.

    :  )
    Rocky in “The Wild Wild West”

  • rozsavage

    The day we have icebergs in Colorado we REALLY need to worry! :-)

    Thanks, Rocky, for doing your bit for a greener, cleaner future.

  • Leanne Veitch

    We’d rather have you alive to row another day, Roz.

    I don’t think anyone would doubt that the decision you have made has been incredibly hard and only made after long consideration.

    Looking forward to hearing what you decide to do next – when things are safer.

  • Schoonie

    Roz great choice on the hold for the North Atlantic!  The Mediterranean Sea is gorgeous this time of year… and would be quite a challenge J

  • Schoonie

    Roz great choice on the hold for the North Atlantic!  The Mediterranean Sea is gorgeous this time of year… and would be quite a challenge.

  • Outsidejay

    here is Roz’s video link… :

    http://youtu.be/Zz5nRvhWgsA   

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  • Outsidejay

    It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong (wo)man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the (wo)man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends (her)self in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if (s)he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that (her) place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. ~Theodore Roosevelt (1910)Row Roz Row!

  • http://jimbell.id.au JimBellofBelmont

    As usual you show good sense …. unlike many other so called “Adventurers” who cause more trouble than they are worth.
    Cheers Roz
    Jim Bell (Australia)