Rower Fiann Paul blows a horn during the crossing of the Drake Passage. (AP)

Rower Fiann Paul blows a horn during the crossing of the Drake Passage. (AP)

Endurance athlete Colin O’Brady (center) and his crew while crossing the treacherous icy waters of the Drake Passage (AP)

Endurance athlete Colin O’Brady (center) and his crew while crossing the treacherous icy waters of the Drake Passage (AP)

The Drake Passage is a stretch of water between South America and Antarctica.

The Drake Passage is a stretch of water between South America and Antarctica.

The Drake Passage is considered one of the most dangerous sea paths in the world. The rowboat finished crossing it in 13 days. (AP)

The Drake Passage is considered one of the most dangerous sea paths in the world. The rowboat finished crossing it in 13 days. (AP)

Cold and choppy waters can be dangerous even for large vessels.

Cold and choppy waters can be dangerous even for large vessels.

Crossing the Drake

Posted: March 2, 2020

For 13 days, six men fight for a record. They also fight for their lives. Waves as big as buildings hoist their vessel toward Antarctica. They gasp as giant whales breach way too close to their boat. Freezing water thrashes as they row 24 hours a day. At the end, they’ve made history. They have become the first people to go through the Drake Passage with nothing but sheer manpower.

THE PASSAGE | The Drake Passage is the body of water between Cape Horn, Chile, and the South Shetland Islands of Antarctica. In this spot, the waters of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Southern Oceans come together. Currents run wild. There is no land nearby to stop them. To get to Antarctica, an adventurer must pass through these fierce waters. And people have, many times . . . but not in rowboats!

THE BOAT | The crew’s 29-foot rowboat, the Ohana, started in South America. It had to move all the time so it didn’t flip over. Three men would row for 90 minutes while the other three rested, still cold and wet. As the rowers worked, 40-foot sea waves splashed in their faces. “It was quite harrowing,” says 34-year-old Colin O’Brady of Jackson Hole, Wyoming. He was one of the six men on the boat.

THE ROWERS | By the end of the trip, the men had lost a lot of weight. They were delirious from lack of sleep. The men had to use a bucket to go to the bathroom. To rest, two men needed to lie shoulder to shoulder in a tiny space. A third would lay balled up in an even smaller area. The boat almost turned over many times.

Praise the Lord from the Earth, you great sea creatures and all deeps. — Psalm 148:7