Via the World: A rescue mission in the Pacific Ocean
British adventurer Sarah Outen is on a mission to loop the planet using only human power. Having pushed off from the east coast of Japan in her rowing boat Gulliver on May 13th, last week she had to be rescued. Here, her support team explains what happened.
As Sarah Outen’s land support team we plan for all eventualities from “plain sailing” right through to emergency rescues like the one we’ve just experienced. This is essential because in a crisis situation – every second counts – particularly when, like Sarah, you’re out on the ocean on your own.
On Tuesday evening Sarah was hit by Tropical Storm Mawar while on her solo row across the North Pacific Ocean. Our weather expert had warned us of the impending storm and, although Sarah had hoped to avoid the worst of it, she nonetheless took the necessary precautions of strapping herself in and taking survival kit and food and water supplies into her cabin.
But in the early hours of Thursday morning the team received a call from Sarah saying that she would like to arrange an emergency rescue. The winds were blowing at 50-60 knots with waves as high as 10metres and she had already capsized on several occasions. The boat had been damaged and she was seriously concerned for her safety.
After receiving this call from Sarah, the team went on to notify Falmouth Coast Guard who in turn asked Sarah to set off her Personal Location Beacon to give them exact details of her position and allow them to contact the Japanese coast guard. From there, the Japanese coast guard sent out a plane to assess the situation and it was decided that a rescue boat would be the best course of action for getting Sarah safely back to shore.
As she was about 500 nautical miles off the coastline this meant that the boat would take 24 hours to reach her and so they organised for the plane to fly past on a regular basis to keep an eye on the situation and her exact position.
Obviously, this was a long time for Sarah to wait as the storm continued to rage around her, especially as she had already been strapped into her cabin for a day and a half.
Thanks to her satellite phone the team was able to stay in regular contact with her through text messages and brief phone calls. Her boat continued to capsize a number of times and in fact by the time she was rescued she’d capsized well over 20 times.
Each message we got we were reminded of Sarah’s incredible strength of character and her resilience – despite what she was going through she still told us how much she loved the ocean and was still able to raise a smile at the albatross that flew over as she stuck her head out of the hatch briefly to view the surveillance plane.
From our side we were obviously continuously updating her family and friends and kept supporters updated via the blog. To give Sarah something to look forward to, the team asked her what she’d like for her first meal when she arrived in Japan – the reply quickly came back as pancakes, cold orange juice and grapes…. and strawberries were added to the menu later on. Close friends have already been to the supermarket and have this ready for her when she arrives, as well as fresh clothes.
Sarah was picked up by the coastguard just before 10am BST. As it is an emergency vessel we couldn’t contact the rescue boat but Sarah rang the team in the early hours of Saturday morning to say that she had had a bath, got clean clothes on and, although obviously exhausted, is feeling OK.
Despite best efforts it was decided that the rescue ship wasn’t going to be able to tow Gulliver back because of the adverse sea conditions. The team is currently working on what to do with him next.
Sarah was due to arrive at Shiogama port in Japan at 0900 local time i.e. 0100 BST on Sunday 10 June.
It’s been a very challenging few days but the team all pulled together and have been completely focused on getting Sarah home safely. Thanks to the support and huge efforts of the coastguards both in Japan and Falmouth, UK as well as a number of key people on the ground in Japan we are absolutely thrilled that Sarah is now on the way back to dry land.Tagged in: explorer, Via the World
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