Day 91 - Equator bubblyIf I was underwhelmed by crossing the International Date Line, today I have been overwhelmed by crossing the Equator. It has been quite an emotional experience – and that’s not just the bubbly talking – and I’m trying to figure out why this might be.

It could be because crossing the Equator had assumed such massive significance in my mind as a Very Difficult Thing. I had maybe allowed myself to get just a bit freaked out by the difficulties encountered by my predecessors in human-powered vessels. And sure, I’ve had my fair share of battles with the elements in trying to get through the lower latitudes, as the winds and currents thwarted my attempts to get south.

But, as with so many things in life, the reality was not as bad as the anticipation. Or it might be because the Equator, unlike the IDL, is actually a geographically significant line. The IDL is a man-made line, allowing us to segment our world into convenient time zones. It could have been located anywhere, and is just where it is because it lies opposite the equally random line of the Prime Meridian at Greenwich – set by British geographers in the days when Britannia ruled the waves. The Equator, on the other hand, is a natural line marking the mid-point between the Poles. It is the line where the Earth is nearest the sun. It is where the Earth is spinning the fastest on its axis. It has a greater sense of significance and reality than the IDL.

Anyway, for whatever reason, today felt very special. I am now a Trusty Shellback, a Pollywog no more. And now I am in the Southern Hemisphere the water will be going down the plughole the opposite way – or would be if I had any plugholes on board. Crossing the Equator was actually quite a busy and time consuming thing to do. I had to pay homage to Neptune and his cohorts (Squishie the Dolphin, with his courtiers Quackers the Duck, the Robin, and the Other Duck). I had to offer gifts – a Larabar (Ginger Snap flavor), and a dollop of California sunshine (a spoonful of Lemon Ladies marmalade). I had to make a sacrifice (I wasn’t prepared to offer a chunk of hair, for fear of spoiling my elegant coiffeur (???!!) so Neptune had to make do with the leavings pulled out of my hairbrush). And I had to deploy the “coconut” for Project Niu – and then jump in after it to photograph it in the water.

The coconut is actually a high-tech data-gathering device created by the team at Archinoetics, one of several devices that have been let loose in the Pacific to send back information and photographs. The one I deployed today is called something in Hawaiian (Evan, help me out here) which translates as “Pink Savage”. It felt strange to deliberately deposit a large and non-bio-degradable object into the ocean, but as an educational device the end justifies the means, so I am sure Squishie, sorry, I mean Neptune, will understand. I just hope the Niu doesn’t travel faster than I do. That would be embarrassing.
Then, duties done, it was time for my treats. With a sense of eager anticipation I opened up the yellow drybag that Liz and Nicole had given me before I left Hawaii. The girls had done me proud. There was the “bling” – a many-stranded necklace of plastic beads, and some pink face paint, both of which I promptly put on. There was the jokey gift – a cooking spatula with a wooden handle. There was the declaration admitting me to the ocean domain as a Trusty Shellback, a Pollywog no more. There were the edible treats – a snack bar and some Sharkies. And, oh bliss, there was the miniature bottle of bubbly. Thank you girls!

I must be the world’s cheapest date at the moment (had there been anybody about to take advantage – which there wasn’t). After 3 booze-free months, the 2 glassfuls of bubbly went straight to my head in the nicest possible way. As the sun set I was sitting on deck feeling happily woozy, admiring the pink and grey clouds, full of oceanic bonhomie and thinking there was really nowhere else on earth I would rather be than at the Equator on such a beautiful day.

[photo: Pulling the bubbly back on board after a brief chilling in the ocean (in the net bag that usually contains my beansprouter) – while Neptune/Squishy the Dolphin looks on]

Other Stuff:
After not seeing another vessel for 3 months, today, on MY Equator, there were intruders. A container ship was just sitting there, doing nothing much. I think I could hear a faint sound of a bell ringing repeatedly, so presumably they were having their own Equatorial celebration. I tried hailing them on the VHF radio, in hopes that they might cruise on over and bring me some additional water supplies – or even some more bubbly – but there was no reply. Guess they were too busy partying.

Although I’ve taken the evening off – largely due to the after-effects of the bubbles – tomorrow it will be back to the oars with a vengeance. I’ve still got 500 miles to go, and I need to make some East if I’m going to have any chance of hitting Tuvalu. Ricardo tells me conditions are going to be calm, so it’s a prime opportunity to head back towards the IDL and set myself up for the final push for home.

For the record, I crossed the Equator at 18:42:02 Hawaii Time, at longitude 179 12.359E.

Weather report:
Position at 2210 HST: 00 00.860S (yayyyyy!), 179 09.371E
Wind: variable but light throughout the day. Generally 0-10kts, S-E.
Seas: swell of about 4ft, SE
Weather: sunny and fine, scattered cumulus cloud. Very hot.


  • The “Niu” Roz refers to is “Niu Hae Akala”, which as she said, means “Pink Savage” in Hawaiian. “Niu” means “coconut”, and it will simulate marine debris to show students (and us adults too) around the world where floating trash can travel. Some Niu’s have already been deployed from Honolulu to show where land-born debris from Hawaii can go.

    You can watch Niu Hae Akala as it separates from Roz to see what the winds and currents are doing around the equator (since this coconut can’t row itself!). It has solar panels, and a number of sensors on board, including ones to measure wave height and temperature (and even a digital camera).

    Watch Niu Hae Akala at the link below (it’s the pink one):

  • I’m up way too late and just wanted a quick glimpse of the Roz Tracker before bed, then I noticed a new post so had to read it. I’m so glad for you that the Equator crossing felt meaningful and that you celebrated it with such gusto (with the help of your friends, both human and stuffed!) I’m usually pretty good at imagining myself in other people’s shoes but honestly, I can’t, in a million years, see myself in your rowing shoes (and besides, they wouldn’t fit!). You amaze and awe me, Roz, and lift me up when I’m struggling with my own cross-winds and currents. I go off to bed feeling inspired and assured that if you can accomplish what you have to date, I can manage my tasks of tomorrow (today?), which are very small in comparison. I will be taking a ginger spice Larabar to work tomorrow for my afternoon snack, and so remind myself of your equator crossing!

    Many, many congratulations on this milestone, and I wish you smooth rowing and favorable winds and currents en route to Tuvalu! And for tonight, sweet and bubbly dreams!

  • Congratulations on your shellback status. It is all downhill from here!
    I’m so glad about your choice of target (Tuvalu) for all the reasons you already know. I’m ordering more Roz pedometers. Everyone loves them.

    With admiration from a whole bunch of lurkers in southern California!

  • Sitting here, at my computer, still rocking after spending a day at sea fishing. Just finished a nice fresh fish meal. Very happy to see that the equator was a good experience for you. Was telling my mate all about your latest news today and was surprised and pleased to see that you had “made it”. Its all down hill, sideways, from here so go for it girl! Jim Bell Australia. PS some money’s coming your way as celebration:)

  • Well, Roz, as I enjoyed my little bit of bubbly tonight, I toast to your crossing and to my last dose of chemo therapy. These thresholds are wonderful small victories and I celebrate along with you. cheers.. Margeaux

  • HMROSBE Roz, greetings…
    (Her Majesty’s Royal Order of Shellbacks in the British Empire)


    Here’s a funny story…weeks ago, as I was exploring All Things Roz and found the Project Niu website, I noticed that one-Hae Akala-had a disturbingly congruent track with yours. “My gosh!” I thought, “the thing is floating right along with Roz. Could it be her rowing is for naught…that she could just float and make the same progress as the Niu?!!” Then I realized she was a stowaway.

    Here, too, are my best wishes and prayers for the remainder of your journey.

    PS: I’ve lost two shirts gambling…will be sending reparations.

  • Yippee! Well done Roz! Good luck and fair winds (and currents) for the final 500 miles. Southern Hemisphere eh? Can you see the Southern Cross yet?

  • Congratulations Roz! Tried to stay awake here on the US east coast for your tweet that you had crossed, but could not do. Glad to hear your team had put some bubbly in your equator package, and hoping you don’t have to start tomorrows row with a hang over (haha)

  • Congrats Roz! One minor correction though (sorry, I’m a stickler for accuracy). You mentioned that the equator is the part of Earth closest to the sun, but that is only true exactly midway between the solstices. If it were always nearest to the sun, at the poles the sun would always appear at 90 degrees, and the Earth would have no seasons. As Earth rotates around the sun, the inclination of it’s axis changes. In other words, it wobbles. So at different locations on its orbit around the sun, different parts of the Earth are tilted toward the sun. The part that is currently tilted toward the sun is the part that is having summer, which is why the northern hemisphere and the southern hemisphere have opposite summers. You probably already knew all this Roz, and your comment was probably meant to mean that the equator is closest to the sun most often, which is of course true, but I just wanted to make it clear for everyone.

    Thanks for letting us all participate in your adventure! Reading your blog is such a motivating way to start the day!

  • Wow, Roz. How thrilling to get to peek in on your phenomenal adventure. A long time ago I read about a young man’s round the world sail (in National Geographic magazine) and THAT was a thrill. This, your adventure, by comparison makes that seem like nothing.

    You’re amazing and I thank you, once again, for being so brave and so eloquent in your reports. I cannot wait to read your book(s).

    Laurey in Asheville

  • Congratulations on another monumental accomplishment! Now that you’re in the same hemisphere with Oz, things should move more quickly. That was a great celebration at the equator, and thanks for sharing it with us. Oh by the way, Squishie is adorable.

    Row safely, row quickly. This is the home stretch. 🙂

  • WAHOO!! Congratulations for all your hard work!
    I hope you are as proud of yourself as we are!
    My 10yr old daughter (Aidan) and I follow you daily…always cheering you on, and excited to hear about your next big adventure.
    GO ROZ GO!!!

  • One more thing Roz. You probably already know that water goes down the drain the same direction in both hemispheres, but this common myth reminds me of a joke. I’m not sure if I heard this, or made it up years ago, but anyway…

    Question: If the water goes down the drain clockwise in the northern hemisphere, and counterclockwise in the southern hemisphere, which way does it go down the drain at the equator?

    Answer: It doesn’t! 🙂

  • I must admit that I stayed up late to watch the Roztracker show the updates crossing the equator. I do this as the first day of vacation from a seaside condo on the Atlantic, so it really set a fine atmosphere with the surf roaring in from the aftereffects of hurricane Bill.

    Fine job, and no RWI (Rowing While Intoxicated).

  • Congratulations! The Muslims add Haj to their names after they go to Mecca. They really should allow you to add Shellback to yours now.

    You have reminded me of the scene in Life Of Pi where Pi and Richard Parker are nearly run over by a container ship.

  • Cheers Roz!

    You hump and pump a weary rump
    To dump the stump yer draggin,
    And trump the bump at zero jump,
    Then thump the sump while braggin’!

    A very well-earned brag it is. I’m sure Erden would second this.

    Now it’s downslope all the way, with a few hidden obstacles perhaps. However, with your perspicacity, Tuvalu is rising to meet you! Literally!

    Very proud of your efforts. _Achates

  • Roz, you are no ordinary Trusty Shellback; you did it under your own power!
    There must be a special designation for Shellbacks of the Highest Order …
    Congratulations! It was a day you — and we Rozlings — will always remember.

  • Hi Roz,
    I stayed up until you crossed and sent a stream of congratulations! I will take your full blog to class tomorrow so expect delayed cheers…

    Well done and well done again.

  • Congratulations! Quite the feat you have accomplished. I did it the easy way, joined the Navy and went through that (disgusting) ritual.
    I had goosebumps when I saw that you made it. As UncaDoug stated, there should be a special designation.
    I wish I could have seen your entire ceremony. That single picture said a lot though.
    Manuia (as we learned from Brian yesterday).

  • Well I found the site and a picture of Roz to boot.
    Interesting project and it is bigger that I imagined.

  • Have to admit to letting out a little “Whoop!” when I read that you crossed the Equator. Not exactly appropriate for work but I am too happy for you to let the moment pass uncelebrated here in Virginia, where we are nowhere near the Equator.

    I’m so proud of you. Thanks for taking us along on your journey – I feel like I was there with you. …and if I were, I promise I’d take my turn at the oars.

  • According to NOAA’s OSCAR it appears there is a southeasterly current just south of you. Hope you can catch it to Tuvalu cause the ocean you are in ain’t going that way right now but you are very close to the ride you need. Your determination tells me you will find the way there. Hopefully we will start to see the result in your tracking data soon. Keep going, you’ll be able to hoist the colors in victory soon.

  • Thanks, Walt, for the info on that current. I was wondering if there might be more eastern currents south of the equator.

    Haul for that current, Roz!! If you’ve got the Pogues album “Rum, Sodomy and the Lash” on one of your iPods, I think you should listen to that for a good thrashing start southeast.

    I sent my congrats last night (along with a donation of celebration) on the previous post, but I’ll send them again, and with many thanks for sharing this adventure.

  • I just wouldn’t forgive myself if I wouldn’t say cheers, Roz!
    I’ve lived all my life at 6º 13’N, and the nearest I’ve got to the equator was a mere 1º 10′ N -and that on an aeroplane! At 69, I probably won’t make it down under… But then, who knows?
    I’ll drink a Scotch on your honour tonight at 00:00 UTC!


  • Congratulations Roz.
    You may be alone out there, but there are thousands of people celebrating with you, even if you can’t see them. Lots of love and best wishes for the rest of your voyage.

  • ‘Onward ho’ to the south! I continue to be amazed by you- your efforts, your mission, your milestones. You are one tough broad! Congratulations seems insufficient. -Karyn

  • Congratulations Roz. What an incredible experience and I loved how you shared it with all of us. I felt as if I were there with you. Keep on rowing you are almost there.

  • OK, Miss Shellback, thanks again for sharing that special time with us as you crossed over. We are pulling for you! I am sure that an air horn would have been welcome when you saw that container ship! Fair winds and following seas to you!

  • Wow Roz! Congrats!
    Was great to read your tweets as I was getting ready for my 7am run (inspired by you I might add — am now running with a group 3x a week). Your last tweet before my run (“last couple of hundred strokes to the equator”) gave me all the motivation I needed that early in the morning to finish my run (7am is early when it’s still winter in Joburg), thank-you! Of course my running group must’ve thought I was nuts finishing off so quickly and hurrying to my iPhone to get the tweet that you had indeed crossed the Equator! Welcome to the Southern Hemisphere!
    Even though you are alone on the ocean there is a real sense of kinship amongst us all around the globe… I love reading Unca Doug and Joan in Atlanta’s comments everyday, oh yes, as well as humming Village People tunes to Richard in Austin’s clever words! Oh, and how can I forget the Roztafarian! I just love this sense of camaraderie and will be sad when it’s all over. Don’t rush too quickly to Tuvalu now….

  • Dear Roz,
    You surely are my inspiration.
    What you have accomplised ,and still will, going all the way to Tuvalu,is just great.
    I am trying to overcome the death of my soulmate ,husband of 31 years ,and it is a daily struggle,but don’t we have to take it one day at the time ,and you one mile every so often,and hope we get there safely
    You are just wondeful,i surely enjoy keeping up with you .
    Take good care,and pray things will work out for sure.

    All the very best,Magda.

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