Fewer than 300 people have crossed the Atlantic Ocean solo in a
rowboat. Roz Savage is one of them,
and she did it when she was 39, in 2006.
The "rowing thing"
started for this former high-technology consultant a few years ago when
she realized she had a job she didn't like, was buying stuff she didn't
need, and was out of touch with the environment.
that my respect for myself went along with respect for the planet,"
Savage says. "I recognize that we are connected with everything else,
that we are this complex web of life, and when any element of that web
gets out of balance, we are going to get in trouble pretty quickly."
Trading a job and a home for a rowboat
Savage says her idea to row across the Atlantic would embody those values.
was environmentally low-impact. It was adventurous. It would give me a
feel for the size of this planet that we live on. And most importantly,
it was sufficiently unusual that it would get people's attention."
did have some experience. She was a member of her college rowing team
at Cambridge and had continued the sport with a rowing club in London.
Despite some initial fears that the project was too big and ambitious,
Savage took the plunge. She quit her job, traded her home for a custom
rowboat and equipped it with an electronic geopositioning system,
satellite phone, stereo music system, VHF radio and a webcam, which
allowed her to bring along virtual adventurers.
Hard-won ripples of change
Savage's 2006 solo Atlantic crossing, viewers shared the anguish of her
oars breaking and the effects of tendonitis in her shoulder and
saltwater sores on her back. They also saw a brave soul who never gave
up, no matter the conditions. It took Savage 103 days to make the
grueling crossing from the Canary Islands off the coast of Spain to
Antigua in the Caribbean.
In 2008, she was off again, this
time to cross the Pacific. The first leg of that journey - from
California to Hawaii - Savage dedicated to raising awareness about
ocean pollution. She introduced online visitors to the Great Pacific
Garbage Patch, the floating mass of discarded plastics twice the size
of Texas, America's largest state behind Alaska. She says people wrote
they had adopted reusable grocery bags, coffee cups and water bottles.
"I really felt that I was starting to spread those ripples of change," she says.
(Click to view slideshow of Savage's journey.)
Inviting others to join her quest
mid-May, Savage will begin rowing westward in the second stage of the
Pacific crossing, a journey from Hawaii to Tuvalu, the Polynesian
Island nation midway between Hawaii and Australia. She wants people who
follow her adventure to take steps to reduce climate-changing carbon
emissions in a campaign called Pull Together. She says participants
will compete in a virtual race, matching her daily strokes with steps.
they upload their steps, they will get feedback on how many calories
they have burned and how much CO2 they've saved, driving home that
message that it's good for their bodies and good for the planet,"
Savage will compile those steps into a petition
that she will deliver in person to delegates at the United Nations
Conference on Climate Change in
Copenhagen in December. Negotiators from 192 countries will be busy
hammering out a global warming treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol when it
expires in 2012.
Savage hopes to convey the message that
people everywhere are engaged in helping the planet one little step -
or one oar stroke - at a time.