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Rower stranded on island reveals why he can’t continue

Well, for me now my Polar rowing expedition is coming to a close. 

Since landing here on the truly incredible Island of Jan Mayen I have decided not to continue the journey to Iceland. 

This decision has been both an easy one to make and an incredibly difficult one. That sounds like a ridiculous comment but let me explain… 

We started this project with the aim of rowing from Tromsõ to Iceland, a two legged journey via Svalbard across largely un-rowed Arctic waters. 

My expedition began in Svalbard where before leaving land we decided to head North to try to touch the edge of the sea ice. Four days and nights of rowing took us to this most incredible environment, sea ice groaning and grating over the frigid sea. 

An impenetrable mass of white and blue floating on dark icy water as far as the eye can see. I felt in awe of the sight, privileged to have been given the opportunity to work our way there through our own means. 

A proud moment for our crew. Heading South West we rowed hard for days and nights on a 90 minute rotation throughout. I won’t explain here what that was like or how that felt, I have done this in previous posts, but it was an experience I wanted, an experience I am so lucky to have been given, and an experience I will never forget. 

I’m so incredibly proud of what we did as a group of men out there on the sea. (As I write this I must state that everything I write here and in my other social media posts are solely my perception of events and my feelings. I am not commenting on the feelings of any of the other crew members of @thepolarrow

After around 7 days of tough seas and with failing power supplies we made the decision as a crew to head for the island of Jan Mayen in order to recover, recuperate and fix the technical issues we were having onboard with the power supplies. 

My feet were extremely wet and cold, clothing damp, I was undernourished but to be quite honest in good spirits as we all were. I was hurting, I had been scared, I was worried about safety but I was happy. 

I was enjoying myself in the weird way that people do who willingly put themselves in these situations. 

I’ve heard it described as type two fun: pretty hellish while it’s going on, but once done you realise the experience was so much fun! 

We were all glad to step foot on land on 19th August where we were met with open arms by some of the Norwegian residents of the military/meteorological base here. 

Hoisting our boat out of the water by forklift quickly and efficiently we were instantly safe. 

The best meal I have ever eaten awaited me…and these meals have continued for days since. If you ever come across anyone in need, help them. That is what these people have done for us. 

In reality all we needed or hoped for was a dry shed floor but we have been given everything. Beds, food, safety, warmth and friendship. The hospitality has been extraordinary on this remote volcanic island in the middle of the Greenland sea and it means so much to us. 

We have regained strength, I’m still suffering from the effect of cold on my feet along with some of the other crew members but I see it as a small price to pay for the experiences I have had. 

So on reflection I have decided not to step back on the boat. it’s a difficult decision because I’m part of a team, a big team, team Polar Row. 

For me to be stopping makes it more difficult for the boat to reach the end destination of Iceland. But I support the skipper Fiann and am trying to help and facilitate that happening. 

This isn’t easy though, we find ourselves on an island that is incredibly difficult to get on and off. 

We were lucky to find it and be allowed on, but getting off is nearly impossible unless you’re prepared to stay for months!

It’s an easy decision because I want to get home to my family. My three young children need their dad, they need him to be responsible and to make the right decisions in life. 

They need him to be brave, adventurous, ambitious and to set them the right example, but they also need him to not take unnecessary risks. 

Where there’s a chance, although slim, that he may not come home, the decision to stop has to be taken. The decision is simple. 

Some will see that as a failure, some will see that as not finishing the project, not reaching the ultimate goal, but I do not. I see this as a massive success. 

A success far greater in fact than I was expecting. We have done something together as a crew which is really exceptional, we have a whole load of world records and world firsts and we survived. 

The most important thing for me is that I now have an even greater and far deeper understanding of what my role is in the world, what I value and what I want. I’ve been so lucky, so so incredibly lucky to have achieved what I have here and in previous sporting endeavours, now what I want is to be with my children and give them some really cool, happy, fun and exciting life experiences and adventures. 

For that I need to be alive. I’m not heading out into rough Arctic waters in a rowing boat again. 

Yesterday it was my daughter Daisy’s 4th birthday. I’m many many miles away stuck on an island. 

I found myself feeling extremely sad to miss her opening her presents and blowing out her four little candles. I should have been there, but it cemented my decision not to take any more serious risks. I’ll be home soon Daisy. 

For us here now it’s a waiting game. Our skipper Fiann is still trying to bring replacement rowers onto the island to replace those of us who do not wish to continue for whatever reason. 

As I mentioned it’s tough to get people here. We support him in his decisions and project. We are all part of the Polar Row together. 

There is news that a boat may be coming past next week that may have space on board for us. Hopefully they will be willing to allow us to jump aboard and begin the journey home… 


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