Today I’ve been listening to The River of Doubt

Roosevelt’s adventure took place during what came to be known as the Golden Age of Exploration. I don’t have access to the internet or Google here, so I’m writing from memory, but as I recall, the twenty years from 1895 to 1915 saw Peary lead the first expedition to successfully reach the North Pole, while Amundsen claimed the South Pole for Norway. The Brits established their reputation for spectacular failures, with Captain Scott and his unfortunate cohorts reaching the South Pole one month after Amundsen and perishing on the return journey, Shackleton’s famous but unsuccessful expeditions to Antarctica, and Franklin’s mysterious disappearance while attempting to penetrate the Northwest Passage.

Incidentally, and less famously, the first recorded ocean crossing by rowboat also took place in that era. In 1896 two Norwegian immigrants, Harbo and Samuelsen, rowed across the North Atlantic in their boat, The Fox. Their voyage was tremendously brave, but utterly miserable-sounding. The Fox had no watertight cabin, so they slept in the bottom of the hull. As now, the North Atlantic was rough, cold and wet. But unlike now, they had no GPS, no watermaker, and no technical clothing. These guys must have been hard as nails.

There’s a well-written book about their voyage, called Daring The Sea: The True Story

“Fatigue clouds judgment and frays tempers. It leads to immobility and deep depression. George and Frank had far more than an indifferent North Atlantic to conquer. They began to realise they had to face the weakness within themselves. Ashore, one’s self can hide in the frenetic pace of daily life, and weakness can be ignored – an impossibility at sea.”

And this brings me to my point. The usual terminology in relation to mountain peaks, oceans and poles is that we have “conquered” them all. This term makes me wince. If anybody refers to my having “conquered” an ocean, I point out that it is by the ocean’s good grace and my own good luck that I made it across. It seems just plain daft to say that a 5-foot-4 woman can “conquer” a body of water that covers half the planet.

But it is true that, with the notable exception of the ocean depths, we have now explored, charted, and measured just about every part of our planet. So where does that leave the aspiring explorers of the 21st century?

I’d like to suggest that, having “conquered” the Earth, it is time we came full circle, and attempted to conquer ourselves. The evidence would seem to suggest that humankind’s basic instinct is to exploit the natural resources around us to the point of exhaustion. I’d like to see us overcome that instinct, and to find a more symbiotic way of inhabiting the planet. This is the challenge for the new pioneers – to chart a course and lead the way to a cleaner, greener, more sustainable future.

Other Stuff:

After a couple of frustrating days being sent way off course, I’m now back on track. Conditions are windy and wild, and we had a bit of a knockdown while I was out on deck yesterday evening. It wasn’t much fun at the time, but I was tethered to the boat and so no harm was done. Today the waves have been big, but mostly Sedna has ridden them well, rising and falling with the swells rather than tipping from side to side.

More frenetic activity from the school of yellowfin tuna below my boat again today. They are great entertainment value.

Gooseneck barnacles had started to grow on the grablines that loop around the outside of the hull of my boat. Today I noticed that they have frond-like appendages that they wave around outside their shells. I assume that these are food-gathering appendages, rather than the, ahem, masculine appendage that caused so much ribald comment before. Whatever, I needed to evict these unwanted hitchhikers, so removed them with a pair of pliers. Gross.

Bruce – thank you for the Ten Commandments of the good doctor. Wise words indeed.

UncaDoug – I am also plotting my likely arrival date, using a rolling average starting from the halfway point. But I’m not telling!

Rico – thanks for the intercession with Neptune. Appreciated.

Marie – very true! And lucky you, living in Carmel Valley. Beautiful part of the world. I’m daydreaming about a road trip through California next year….

Quote, in honour of Theodore Roosevelt: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”
Theodore Roosevelt (26th US President (1901-09), 1858-1919)

Sponsored Miles: John Miller, Nicola Faith, Andrew Lueken, Doug Grandt, Bonnie Sterngold, Nick Perdiew, Alexandra Stevens, Jeffrey Green – Thank you! 34 miles since yesterday morning.

12 Comments

  • Thanks for the reminder, Roz. I appreciate the need to regularly take time out from daily activity; to actively participate in helping others, “spend yourself on a worthy cause”, or conquer inner fears and barriers to living a worthwhile life.

  • Hey Roz,

    I wonder how you have so many quotes “in your pocket.”  Gosh – do you have a quote of the day diary you assembled beforehand?  Amazing.

    I just finished reading The Wave and am astonished that you read it while out on the ocean.  HOW did you keep going (as if you had any choice at that point…)  I was terrified READING it, miles from the ocean. Can’t quite imagine listening to it while ON the ocean.  You’re amazingly brave!

    I continue to send you strength and hopes for currents that will escort you to the place you want to go to.  All is good in Asheville.  I am now 1/3 through the treatments for this third round of cancer.  Feeling good.  Sleeping alot, but increasingly confident that this is a journey, not an end for me. 

    Best to you,
    Laurey

  • Hello Roz..as always love following your adventures, reading your wonderful daily logs that are so thought provoking and remind one what is truly important, and I look forward to seeing you in La La La Pine if you make it this way on your travels! Hope you and Woody get some calmer more peaceful seas with wind blowing at a “correct” speed in the proper direction!
    Molly

  • Roz . . . I am in total agreement with you about the archaic way of looking at our achievements with respect to nature.  Too much of such thinking is what has led us to the point we are at now.  Dominance *over* nature is precisely the wrong way to go at things.  We may think we can dominate but the reality is, we either manage to sneak through or as you put it eke out success through the good graces of nature.

    Too many grand ideas of being in control of nature have only led us to the brink of ecological disaster and ruin.  It is time we changed our view to one of working with nature, giving back to nature, and repairing the massive damage we have caused.

  • Roz,   When you are in New Jersey for your 2012 trip you might want to inquire whether the Twin Lights (historic lighthouses) in Highlands still has a series of paintings about the Fox Atlantic crossing.  They were done by Henry Luhrs, a locally well known artist and boat builder, and used to be on display at the Twin Lights.

  • I love the Teddy Roosevelt “not the critic who counts..” quote, I have it framed on my wall. It has helped me through tough times. 

    To be happy with a woman, you must love her a lot; and not try to understand her at all.

    A woman marries a man, expecting that he will change, and he doesn’t. A
    man marries a woman, expecting that she won’t change, and she does.

    A woman has the last word in any argument. Anything that the man says after that; is the beginning of a new argument.

    Any married man should forget his mistakes – there’s no use in two people remembering the same thing.

    A man will pay $2 for a $1 item he wants. A woman will pay $1 for a $2 item that she doesn’t want.

    A woman worries about the future, until she gets a husband. A man never worries about the future, until he gets a wife.

    A successful man is one, who makes more money than his wife can spend. A successful woman is one, who can find such a man.

    There are three times when a man doesn’t understand a woman – before marriage, during marriage and after marriage.

  • I would like to expand on the idea of “conquering” the earth with a couple of quotes from some people who should know about the concept. 
    “It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.” SIr Edmund Hillary. In a similar vein from the first American to accomplish the feat of Hillary and Tenzing, “You can never conquer the mountain. You can only conquer yourself.” Jim WhittakerThese ideas help us understand the human need for exploration and adventure, to become, as French climber Lionel Terray puts it “Conquistadors of the Useless.” They should also point out that all the effort put into any of these endeavors only benefits the individual and does not in and of itself produce any real benefit for society. It is how the individual uses the experience that can reap rewards. Regardless of what the arrogant might think, we have only explored and exploited the earth, we have not conquered her. She is just about ready to drop the curtain on us so we better sit up and take note; we need to change our ways and soon. The message you are sending through your adventure shared through your blog is helping more people understand this and is a beacon which more should take as their own target in life.Row on Roz

  • Beautiful blog, Roz. There’s a TV show  called “Man Vs. Wild.” The title alone creeps me out. I’ve never watched. 

    • You should try at least one episode, Susie. It’s a great piece of filming in some wild but beautiful locations.

  • Excellent, appropriate, and timely quote, Roz.

    I had been vigorously searching for one to use at tonight’s candlelight memorial to one of Canada’s greatest political leaders who has just passed over to the other side. 

    More power to you, girl.  Drinking a toast, in your name,  to Davy Jones to let go of your Sedna so that you may complete your journey soonest.  

    Ron

  • Roz, you wrote: I’d like to suggest that, having “conquered” the Earth, it is time we came full circle, and attempted to conquer ourselves. The evidence would seem to suggest that humankind’s basic instinct is to exploit the natural resources around us to the point of exhaustion. I’d like to see us overcome that instinct, and to find a more symbiotic way of inhabiting the planet. This is the challenge for the new pioneers – to chart a course and lead the way to a cleaner, greener, more sustainable future.

    An example of the conquest of earth resources has been happening for years and years, and it is about to increase an order of magnitude, or more. The scarcity of oil, geopolitical aspects of OPEC oil, and rising price of oil … and the stalemate in the U.S. Congress … are aiding and abetting Canada’s conquest of tarsand oil and the forests, streams, lakes, and wildlife that will be collateral damage from tarsand oil excavation.

    As you know, I am in Washington DC this week participating in the http://bit.ly/DCtarAction and the message will be sent to President Obama every day for two weeks that YES, he can say no to tarsand oil by denying approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, without interference from Congress.

    I would normally no take space on your blog for this, but what is at stake is exactly what you are talking about: so-called “conquering” earth by strip mining an area of Boreal Forest the size of England and Wales. We have the technology do excavate and mine the sand, burn fossil fuels to boil the water necessary to process and remove the tar from the sand, then after the mission is complete, put all the pieces back together so no one would ever know the excavation occurred … so they say. Seriously! THAT is surely conquering earth.

    There is nearly as much oil in Canada as there is in Saudi Arabia.  Is it more friendly than Arab oil? No!  Not for life on this planet.

    I will deliver my message to Barack Obama on Thursday:
    Yes, Barack, you can say “no” — say “no” to tarsand oil.

    There are alternatives.  Like you said, we need a new kind of pioneer, and they are already at work, entrepreneurs and innovative engineers. Roz, you cannot see http://www.arpa-e.energy.gov/ but just know that Dept. of Energy is already promoting competition among innovative development of energy technologies that one cannot imagine. Energy pioneers are confidently and competently hard a work finding viable solutions.

    Row competently and confidently, Roz! You are one helluva pioneer!

  • Hi Roz

    Enjoying your blog as always. National Geographic has an interesting story about the 1911 expeditions to the south pole.

    Keep up the good work

    ~Anders

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