Russian traveler Fyodor Konyukhov, who is sailing his paddleboat «AKROS» as part of a solo circumnavigation of the globe from New Zealandto Cape Horn, saw people for the first time in 141 days. The expedition headquarters calculates that in all the time since the start in New Zealand in December 2018, the same course as «AKROS», only ten vessels have moved, and those passed within 200-400 nautical miles of the Russian.
The guest was a Chilean Naval Aviation (Armada de Chile) Embraer 111 search and rescue aircraft, which specifically flew out to patrol the area of the Southern Ocean where Konyukhov is currently located.
The pilots not only talked to the traveler, but also filmed the boat on video, which was then published on the Naval Aviation's Twitter page.
The military had alerted the expeditionary headquarters in advance of the planned flight, so the Russian was ready for them. Konyukhov was instructed to light a false flare when he heard the plane and set his radio to a specific channel. Electronics also helped - an audible alert on the echo responder at«AKROS» went off before the plane and the boat were within sight of each other.
«The plane was making circles around the boat the whole time, moving away and back - the speed is high, but the helicopter would not reach here, it is 460 nautical miles (828 kilometers) to Cape Horn. At the end, the plane waved and the pilots wished me a "safe trip" on my way to Cape Horn. Thanks to Armada de Chile for such a visit. These are the first people I have seen since I set off from the coast of New Zealand. For 141 days I have not seen any ships or planes. The pilots are professionals, able to fly into the Southern Ocean in this weather and so far away. I have a great respect for this kind of work! » - Konyukhov told later.
The weather in the area is really difficult. Due to low cloudiness the airplane was not spotted the first time «ACROS».
«The rains have not stopped. Drizzling rain turns into heavy rain, then it drizzles again. It's hard to detect the boundary between the ocean and the sky, everything is a solid wet, like a wet blanket. In a couple of hours wind increases to gale force and turns to the south, blowing from Antarctica»," Konyukhov said on Sunday.
Despite the cold the traveler can't afford full heating of the cabin.
After his boat capsized three times during a storm on April 1 and some of its solar panels blew out, the remaining ones barely have enough power to keep the navigation equipment running. Konyukhov also had to give up his lights in favor of a battery-powered headlamp.
«Batteries are at the bottom of the boat, the water in the ocean is cold. It is a shame that the battery compartment has a special heating system for the batteries: a metal plate with heating elements similar to a warm floor. The calculation was that the warm plate serves as a layer, warming the batteries and increasing their efficiency, but I can't use it. As soon as I turn it on, the batteries immediately drop. Rannoch Adventure engineers Mike Wood and GaryScroggs spent a lot of time developing this system, and I can't use it now, when I really need it»," laments Konyukhov.
The traveler's headquarters, meanwhile, has already moved to Argentina. On April 26, Oskar Konyukhov, Arkady Konyukhov (grandson of Fyodor Konyukhov) and experienced yachtsmen-travellersSemyon Deyak, Pyotr Isachenko, Mikhail Tarasov and Pavel Bogachev were invited to reception of the Russian Ambassador in Buenos Aires. And on Sunday evening, April 28, the team flew to Ushuaia.
Three yachts will depart from the port to meet Fyodor Konyukhov: two of the expedition staff on the Moscow yacht Lady Mary will be joined by the Klochkovs, who are also sailing around the world.
However, even before that joyful meeting the loneliness of Fyodor Konyukhov in the ocean is likely to end. Near the coast of South America, on the border of the shelf, he may run into fishing boats. Although these encounters are likely to make him more wary than happy: a towering 300-metre tanker, if you look at it from a rowboat on the water surface, obscures both wind and wave, and even the sun.