South Pacific a desert, says survivalist rower

MICHAEL FIELD
Last updated 09:14 27/03/2014
Fyodor Konyukhov

FYODOR KONYUKHOV: 'Nowadays the Pacific Ocean is a desert, there are no flying fish, and thus no tuna, dolphins or sharks. I keep daily notes, but I do not have much to register there.'

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A self-described Russian Ukrainian survivalist rowing across the Pacific from Chile to Australia is near Rarotonga in the Cook Islands, 93 days and more than 6500 kilometres into his voyage.

Alarmingly Fyodor Konyukhov, 62, is finding the South Pacific to be a desert.

The private satellite SkyTruth organisation picked him today rowing a course that will take him south of Tonga and into the Tasman Sea.

"I should move up towards the equator, keep between the ninth and 10th degrees south latitude to pass the islands safely," Konyukhov told Radio Voice of Russia from his rowboat Turgoyak.

"Back in 1947, on Thor Heyerdahl's raft jumped tuna, and his crew collected baskets of flying fish and fried them - I can only dream about such profusion," Konyukhov said.

"Nowadays the Pacific Ocean is a desert, there are no flying fish, and thus no tuna, dolphins or sharks. I keep daily notes, but I do not have much to register there.

"The waves are raising and dropping the boat day and night. I can barely imagine a different life. If it were not for the satellite telephone, I would have been cut from the world entirely."

Konyukhov tries to avoid the numerous fishing boats now in the South Pacific.

"It is better not to get in contact, as often having known that a rowboat is sailing across the ocean fishermen get closer to see. These are always tense moments for me," he said.

On his website Konyukhov, who is an Eastern Orthodox priest in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church describes his boat as "my monk cell".

He says he feels like he has been out on the Pacific for an eternity.

"The last three months were hard and trying but the rewards were immense," he writes.

"I'm experiencing the Pacific Ocean like never before."

He said he was dismayed to learn that Russian media had made a fuss about his meeting with a shark. Nothing happened.

"The shark has not been bothering me at all," he said.

"This is her home and I am a passerby.

"In reality, though, I left for the ocean to seek solitude, to live as an ascetic for six months."

It was living life on the edge.

"The risks are enormous," he said.

"The storms, high seas, hazard of being thrown out on to the reefs or getting an injury, or worse, getting swept of the deck."

He has burnt his hand on jellyfish.

"It is not a mortal burn, but it is necessary to stay cautious," he told Voice of Russia.

"In the future I will clear the lure in gloves."

But Konyukhov said he was enjoying himself.

"These very days stuck in memory and force me go into the ocean again and again," he said.

His voyage began on December 22, 2013, in Concon in Chile and to get to Brisbane Konyukhov has to cover 8465 kilometres.

On his Wikipedia entry, Konyukov is described as an Eastern Orthodox priest in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

He claims a world record in reaching extreme points, including three times to the North Pole, the South Pole, the Pole of Inaccessibility in the Arctic and twice to the top of Mt Everest. He said he had rowed across the Atlantic in 46 days.

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