Tourgoyak from Above
On Thursday, May 29th, the land support team for Fedor Konyukhov's expedition across the Pacific flew 70 miles into the ocean to see Fedor and his row boat. Initially, we were going to take off when Fedor would be only 50 miles away from the coast. However, the last 24 hours turned out to be very challenging for rowing: Fedor entered the coastal current that carried him north during the night but by morning it turned around and started pushing him south. In 24 hours Fedor was able to row only 10 miles making it the slowest day in the entire transpacific crossing. Thursday we were scheduled to fly out to see Fedor. Although he was further off the coast then we estimated we decided to board the helicopter and take off to find him. The Channel 7 news broadcaster joined our venture on another helicopter. We were using signals from the Yellow Brick buoy to locate the boat.
Our pilot Nathan Smith flew the helicopter at a speed of 120-130 miles per hour. Since we had taken the doors down so the news crew would be able to film Fedor from the air, the helicopter couldn't fly faster for safety reasons. After only 45 minutes from our take off we flew over the coordinates generated from the Yellow Brick buoy on board of Tourgoyak. The day was clear and we immediately spotted the boat. Fedor saw us too, probably even before we saw him, and decided to light a white flare to aid our search for him.
This was the first time we saw Fedor since his departure from Chile 158 days ago. A historical moment. An emotional moment. Our helicopter was hovering over Fedor's boat at a height of 50 meters.
Fedor dropped his oars and stood in the middle of the cockpit watching us silently. Later, on the phone, he told us that at the first sign of our helicopter he knew that his journey was close to ending. He knew we were coming: early in the morning we told him to look for us.
Despite this knowledge, Fedor was very moved when he finally saw us. There were seven people on the flight: the pilot Nathan Smith, the manager of the transpacific project Oscar Konyukhov, two project sponsors Sergey Eremenko and Evgeniy Kruchkov, two film operators Anton Volskiy and Maksim Kataev from NTV the largest news broadcaster in Russia, and a third media representative Vladimir Zaytsev from Perviy Obrazovatelniy, an educational network for the Modern University for the Humanities.
The Tourgoyak boat appeared relatively clean absent of sea growth, and it looked strong with all of the equipment on board and reserve oars intact. Fedor (from the distance) is in good shape but skinnier than normal.
We spent 15 minutes circling around the boat, just long enough to film it from different angles, and turned back towards the Sunshine Coast.
Considering that Fedor has 70 miles to go, we expect him to arrive at Mooloolaba late Saturday afternoon.
Friday will be filled with last minute preparations for a welcoming party to greet Fedor as he finishes his 9000 mile row across the Pacific.