By Iñaki Martinez Azpiroz
Santiago, Jan 5 (EFE).- Antonio de la Rosa on Thursday set out from the southern Chilean city of Puerto Williams on his most extreme and determined expedition, during which he wants to row 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) alone to Antarctica, then continue – using a sail – another 2,000 km to South Georgia Island, crossing the frozen terrain there on foot to call attention to environmental deterioration.
“I expect is to take about two or three weeks to get to Elephant Island in Antarctica, which is the most difficult stretch because I’m going to row. After that, I’ll have the help of a small sail to reach South Georgia,” the Spanish athlete told EFE a few hours before setting out on the grueling journey.
The aim of the expedition is not only to undertake an athletic challenge, De la Rosa said, but also to promote defending and cleaning up the seas.
“I’m a faithful defender of the oceans, and so my boat is called ‘Ocean Defender,'” he said.
“I hope not to find any plastic on the islands of Antarctica but, if I find it, I will (publicize the fact) that human traces are coming to every part of the planet,” he emphasized, adding that he intends to detail his expedition in real time on the social networks.
De la Rosa’s awareness of the problems of plastics in the oceans dates back to when he traversed the island of trash in the Pacific in 2019, using the same boat he’ll use on his Antarctic sojourn, and he was the first person to row alone across that ocean, completing the crossing in 76 days.
Officially, the rowing phase of the trip to Antarctica will begin late on Friday afternoon, when weather conditions allow him to row southward. The southernmost point of Chile is a region well-known for its strong winds and, if there are intense winds blowing northward he would not be able to make any headway.
Starting at midnight on Wednesday, another boat has been towing the Ocean Defender to Cape Horn, the southernmost tip of the Americas, and from there De la Rosa will begin his rowing journey.
It will take him between two and three weeks to reach Elephant Island, an islet covered by glaciers and with fauna consisting mainly of penguins and seals.
He said that he’s been waiting at Puerto Williams for days until the weather conditions have been favorable to set out. On Friday morning, the forecast is for a weather front with wind gusts of up to 120 kph (74 mph) to pass through the area and after that there will be three days of good weather. Thus, it will be the perfect time to get started.
The Ocean Defender, just 1.5 meters (5 feet) wide and seven meters (23 feet) long, is of a unique design, constructed of carbon and with a specialized shape perfect for rowing. De la Rosa added that its aerodynamics make it ideal for the challenge and, in addition, it’s very stable in the ever-shifting sea.
This isn’t the first time that the Spanish athlete has tried the challenge he’s getting ready to undertake now. In November 2021, he wanted to do the same thing, but logistical problems delayed his boat in arriving in Chile and, once he was ready, Covid-19 hit the expedition and made the task impossible.
However, the wait has not been in vain, he said. “Now, I’ve had a year to prepare, and I’ve even brought better oars. I’ve been more focused on the expedition, on improving the conditions and the probabilities for success.”