site.btaMany Like-Minded People Come Your Way When You Embark on "Impossible" Mission
One of the participants in the upcoming Shackleton Mission with a row boat across the Southern Ocean is Bulgarian Stefan Ivanov. "It is surprising how many like-minded people come your way when you pursue 'impossible' missions," Ivanov said in a BTA interview ahead of the expedition, which is set to start in January 2023.
The costs of such an expedition turned out to be quite hefty. In September 2022, three months before the planned departure for Antarctica, Ivanov approached a half-dozen potential sponsors and only one responded: SiteGround. "Within days, we found we are on the same wave-length and we made an agreement that allowed me to join the expedition and make sure Bulgaria has a participant," Ivanov said.
The Bulgarian web hosting service company backed the project because its mission is to raise awareness of the need to protect nature and the oceans - and this cause is close to their heart.
The other main sponsor is the British company Actiph Water, a European leader in alkaline ionised water.
"It is surprising how many like-minded people appear out of the blue when you are pursuing a mission that seems impossible. From then on, it is smooth sailing," Ivanov said.
The Shackleton Mission
The initiative came from Icelander Fiann Paul, the world’s most record breaking explorer who holds 33 Guinness World Records – the highest number of records ever achieved within a single athletic discipline.
The other members are experienced ocean or competitive rowers and seafarers Jamie Douglas-Hamilton from the UK, Lisa Farthofer from Austria, Mike Matson and Brian Krauskpf from the USA.
The inspiration came from the expeditions of the legendary British explorer Ernst Shackleton. When his ship Endurance went down after it was trapped in pack ice during the 1914-1917 expedition, Shackleton and 5 crew members went on their lifeboat, the James Caird, to look for help. That journey is considered by many as the greatest small boat voyage ever completed, which resulted in saving the lives of all 28 members of Shackleton’s expedition.
It is this voyage that The Shackleton Mission crew will try to recreate with their row boat, Mrs Chippy. They will depart from the Antarctic Peninsula to South Georgia Island across what is regarded as the most dreaded bit of ocean on the planet.
The six crew members will be taking shifts in groups of three around the clock every 1.5 hours. Thus, each one will be on the oars 12 hours a day throughout the voyage, unless the rowing is interrupted by severe storms in the “Screaming 60s” and the “Furious 50s”, which are the norm rather than the exception in that part of the Southern Ocean.
Ivanov says that his own reason for joining the expedition - in addition to record-setting and raising awareness of the need to protect the oceans, is the pleasure and gratification he expects from the trip. "The pleasure to dive deep into nature's embraces: amid the ocean waves, the icebergs, the whales and penguins, and the gratification that would come if we handle the streams, the wind and waves, and all emergencies - and we make it to South Georgia Island, which will require a gigantic effort" he said.
Each team member is required to be able to row 15 km in an hour with 18 row strokes per minute on the maximum level of difficulty on the rowing machine - and keep their heart rate at 165 per minute. The effort is the same as running 15 km in a hour, says Stefan Ivanov.
In 2020, the coordinator of the Ocean Rowing Society, Fiann Paul, followed closely the trans-Atlantic journey of Stefan Ivanov and his son Maxim. With that journey, Maxim who was 16 at the time, became the youngest rower to cross the ocean and set a Guinness record for that, and their boat, NEVEREST, which they built in their Sofia garage, became the first row boat to cross the Atlantic from the East during the hurricane season. "It was no surprise that we had four tropical storms and one hurricane. Fiann was impressed that we made it and did not raise the white flag. In subsequent conversations, he promised to invite me to the last rowing expedition in his career - and he delivered on his promise," said Ivanov.
After NEVEREST, Maxim Ivanov was admitted to Stanford University. "Maxim has this ability to accept with calm good and bad news alike, and pursue what he has started until he sees a light at the end of the tunnel even when it is a long tunnel," Stefan Ivanov says of his son.
The senior Ivanov took up rowing at the age of 46 after his son had the idea of crossing the ocean with a row boat. Rowing world champion Viktoria Dimitrova taught them how to row from scratch. But then Maxim decided to go to university in the US and his father had to think of how to keep rowing without him. Dimitrova suggested that they form a mixed scull double to stay in good shape and "have fun at the rowing competitions for veterans". The two won gold at the latest World Rowing Championship for Veterans in Libourne, France.
To prepare for the Shackleton Mission, Stefan Ivanov has a rower in the backyard of his Sofia house where he works daily 90-minute sessions of uninterrupted rowing. "I also try to acclimatize to the cold weather: I wear only a tee or a shirt in winter and take ice-cold showers every day, making them colder and longer with time. Everything goes as planned, including the six practice sessions each week. This is just a hobby after all," he says.
But is it the physical or psychological preparedness, the weather conditions, efforts or good luck that can make a mission successful? Ivanov says: "We usually ask ourselves which is the easiest, fastest - or just right - way to go. Many times I have chosen the harder, the longer or more painful road - and yet I felt immense satisfaction exactly because I had overcome a pile of hardships on the road. If there are no hardships, there is nothing to write home about," Ivanov says.
The Shackleton Expedition can be followed at www.facebook.com./NeverestOceanRow, in Instagram @NeverestOceanRow, or tracked on http://www.rowlaughexplore.com/the-shackleton-mission.