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James Hillman lecture

Amazing fragment of Jungian psychologist on conditioning of the Hero within:

It is just a brief introduction to the psychology of adventurers, expeditioners and all the Hero archetype related characters. I will write more on this topic on other occasions. Two stories Hillman quotes are very obvious. The story of our Hero within might have been less obvious, or we keep it less obvious to ourself. But in the end the same mechanism applies, the story seen from the other end looks more reasonable.

Personal development, meditation & extreme expeditions

 Break through points lead to choosing extreme conditions, and extreme conditions lead to break through points. In whichever case, a person will turn more toward exploring the purpose of their life, and its meaning.


Now finally the most interesting and important connection: Embarking on a expedition always has the potential of bringing you the rare opportunity to perceive your life in the ultimate perspective. It is only at the moment when you are sure you are going to die in a minute or two that you have your last seconds to review your life and state honestly to yourself whether or not you lived your life and to what extent. As long as you have plan B and plan C to escape, then you won't be forced to be direct enough to consider the things you could have thought of before but never had a 'chance' to face. In such a near-death situation this statement will naturally appear without the wrap-up bullshit that our lives are full of. Years of introspective struggle might not be able to take you there; such is human nature. I would estimate that this experience is worth $1million.

The conclusions we get to at that point are often very similar. They have one predominant tendency: emphasis for living one's own life instead of what is expected by others, and enjoying life more now instead of waiting for the goal to come...

I decided to paste below a list of the most predominant regrets that people who were actually dying have stated. Maybe it will inspire you to give a moment to consider your own life in a similar light:

1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
2. I wish I hadn't worked so hard.
3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
(based on research by Bronnie Ware)

In terms of mental preparation all of your life that you've lived so far is a preparation. All of the moments in your past that you executed more effort from yourself, more determination, persistence, focus, and all of the moments that you handled pain and discomfort and that you pushed your limits... these will be an asset...


Now a bit of humor in the end to chill out.

It is going to be black humor though, sorry. The funniest or most amazing death accidents:

 458 BC: Aeschylus, the great Athenian author of tragedies. Valerius Maximus wrote that he was killed by a tortoise dropped by an eagle that had mistaken his head for a rock suitable for shattering the shell of the reptile. Pliny, in his Naturalis Historiæ, adds that Aeschylus had been staying outdoors to avert a prophecy that he would be killed by a falling object.

1518: In the Dancing Plague of 1518 a woman (and eventually a league of 400 people) uncontrollably danced for a month causing dozens of participants to die of stroke and exhaustion. The reason for this occurrence is still unclear
As the dancing plague worsened, concerned nobles sought the advice of local physicians, who ruled out astrological and supernatural causes, instead announcing that the plague was a "natural disease" caused by "hot blood." However, instead of prescribing bleeding, authorities encouraged more dancing, in part by opening two guildhalls and a grain market, and even constructing a wooden stage. The authorities did this because they believed that the dancers would only recover if they danced continuously night and day. To increase the effectiveness of the cure, authorities even paid for musicians to keep the afflicted moving. Some of the dancers were taken to a shrine, where they sought a cure for their affliction[

1916: Grigori Rasputin, Russian mystic, was poisoned while dining with a political enemy, and supposedly he was given enough poison to kill three men his size. When he did not die, one assassin sneaked up behind him and shot him in the head, and while checking Grigori's pulse he was grabbed by the neck by the mystic and was strangled. He proceeded to run away, while the other assassins chased. They caught up to him after he was finally felled by three shots during the chase. The pursuers bludgeoned him, then threw him into a frozen river. When his body washed ashore, an autopsy showed the cause of death to be hypothermia, not drowning.

Crazy Horse

Crazy Horse, legendary Sioux leader and his famous battlefield phrase: "Hoka hey, today is a good day to die!". Only fulfilled person can feel like joyfully dying at the moment as nothing is missing, life is kept complete every day. Nothing is postponed. I believe it is the only real wealth we can own: to live our lives leaving nothing missing. I think we usually don't fear death of body, neither pain. Only the life we haven't lived. The end comes but the life has not happened yet. People who lived their lives seem to worry little if at all when their life is threatened.

Actually the phrase became so popular that people started thinking that "Hoka hey" means "today is a good day to die". But it means "let's do it!" or "let's move on!" he used to add before the dying phrase. Still it is quality of brave people of great inner wealth, to be able to jump, to make the step, to take the risk and especially when it touches the death..... Not to talk, not to think, but "just do it". This mysterious "doing it" is usually the step towards the unknown and consist mainly ofleaving behind the old part of our self. It is sort of death indeed. It requires a touch of a mad man and an existential explorer/gambler courage.

Eugene Smurgis

One of the best ocean rowers of all time is Eugine Smurgis. Little is known about this epic figure mainly due to him coming from a land that didn’t help him in any way with promotional exposure - Arctic Russia. He rowed in the Arctic four times between 1988 and 1993 in primitive, simple boats over distances ranging from 400 to 1600 miles, although he would stop on land at times. By 1990 he had reached the Northern most latitude at 77º, 44’0’’N. Interestingly Eugine Smurgis was the only arctic ocean rower who completed his attempted routes. None of the more recent expeditions ever reached the completion of their Arctic rows. 

Not necessarily I admire him for the way he treated his son, but in the end mainly for the "bulldog's grip on this expedition, and nothing could tear him away" personality. If it was me commenting Eugene, I would say wolverine's grip, as wolverine has about 10 times stronger jaws than a bulldog.

His warrior spirit was far stronger than any other famous rower of his times or of any times. It is just that his story is not an American story......It is not Admiral Byrd recieving millions of dolars from Rockefeller to explore the Antarctica. It is a man who didn't have enough money to eat dinner but had enough of spirit to cross Arctic ocean in an open rowing boat. It hasn't been done again even though we have pro boats now. I have no doubts he would have been number one oceanrower (statistics wise) if he had finances to pursue it.

(the information below comes from a book by Kenneth CRUTCHLOW & Steve BOGA)


Eugene was born in 1938 in Orenburg, Ural. His father was an Air Force pilot. After finishing secondary school, where he first began rowing, Smurgis entered a teachers training institute in the city of Perm near the Ural Mountains. The area, laced with rivers, enabled him to continue rowing.

After graduating from college, he became an anthropology teacher in Tulpan, an out-of-the-way hamlet on one of the Volga's tributaries. It was there that Smurgis first saw the boat of his dreams, the boat that would alter the course of his life. He watched as an old woman struggled at the oars, inching upstream, with heaps of hay piled in the stern. The boat, 7 meters long, was the same design that had been used for centuries by the ancient Pomors tribe along the upper Volga. Its bow and stern were slightly upturned, suggesting a Dutch wooden shoe.

Smurgis hired a local craftsman to build a boat similar to the one he'd seen the old woman rowing. When it was completed, he decided to take it for a spin. Dubbing it Max-4, he took to the oars for 43 days, finishing 4,500 kilometers later in Lipetsk, where his parents lived. In traveling down the Kama and Volga Rivers and up the Don, Smurgis was pleasantly surprised by how easy his small craft was to steer.

He had found his medium, his raison d'etre. He soon realized that full-time teaching was not compatible with marathon rowing. Teaching would have to go. He needed seasonal work, so he quit to become a commercial hunter and woodcutter. For the rest of his life, he would follow the same basic pattern of rowing summers and working winters.

Over the next twenty years, a self-taught Eugene Smurgis rowed 36,700 kilometers of inland waterways, navigating all the major rivers and lakes of Russia, and later Siberia. In the beginning he rowed with a partner, but on his third trip, in 1971, he went alone, crossing part of the Caspian Sea in thirteen days. It was the start of his solo career. In 1976 he went solo for twenty-six days; two years later, he rowed north to the Kara Sea, alone that time for 40 days and 40 nights--all this in a boat with no cabin, no crawl space.

He adapted well to being alone with the sea, but his dream, his ultimate rowing challenge, included a human partner: his son, Alexander.

As a boy, Alexander, nicknamed Sasha, was often sickly and weak, and Eugene, macho conqueror of nature, worried about his "sissy son." Eugene married Alexander's mother in the Far East, but little else is known of her. Sasha, born in December 1971, grew up in the town of Lipetsk, 400 kilometers south of Moscow. By the time he was a teenager, he was a head taller than his sinewy, balding father. The boy had broad shoulders and a lean, athletic body. Although he was a handsome lad, some might say he had a "baby face." This may have fed his father's fears of raising a sissy son. In any case, he vowed to toughen the kid up.

In 1986, when Sasha was not yet fifteen, his father shanghaied him for his longest adventure yet--4,800 kilometers over 44 days. The Smurgis team rowed the Amur River, the Sea of Okhotsk, the Sea of Japan, finishing in Vladivostok. It was there in that eastern Siberia port that Eugene had the vision destined to direct the rest of his life: He and Sasha, Smurgis and Smurgis, would row the world! Alexander's reaction to this blueprint for his life is unknown.

In 1987 father and son united for another marathon row, this time 1400 kilometers on the White Sea and the Onega River. In the fall, Alexander went off to technical college. Eugene, infused with visions of becoming the first Russian to achieve heroic stature in a rowboat, decided he couldn't wait for his son. He would start without him.

In 1988 he journeyed to the northern Siberian community of Tiksi to commence the around-the-world expedition that for so long had fueled his dreams. Tiksi, at about 72 degrees north latitude, was a bi-chromatic world of ice and pale blue water. Although he often had to drag his boat, now Pella-Fiord, over rough pack ice, he reached Khatanga, 1300 kilometers away, in 30 days.

In 1990, with his son still in school, he returned alone to Khatanga, rowed the treacherous waters around Cape Chelyuskin, reaching a latitude of 77 degrees north, and finished at Dikson, reputedly the coldest place in Asia. His total for the second leg: 2,100 kilometers in 65 days.

Vanya Rezvoy, who helped with this article by translating the Smurgis documents from Russian into English, sees Eugene Smurgis as a man who was always rushing. "It's like someone was standing behind him with a stopwatch, yelling 'Go, go!'" he says. Rezvoy has read parts of Eugene's diary, and what emerges for him is someone who seldom stopped to smell the roses. "Much of the diary is technical," he says. "It shows a man without the time to watch nature."

In Dikson, though, Eugene seemed to open up more than usual, at least in his diary. No doubt buoyed by his son's participation, he offered some actual insights:

18 August, 1992 Drizzly. For the last 24 hours didn't have an hour of sleep. Already tired and haven't left Dikson yet. All the trouble of building, transporting, equipping, and organizing the boat, and we still have the rowing to do. In all, 2,500 kilometers through three cold northern seas.

The last two months have worn me out. I can feel tiredness as a huge weight, pressing on my soul, on my body, on my mind. It hasn't been easy--in all my travels I can't remember ever having so little rest time.

We raise our oars to the vertical to signal port authorities that we are ready to leave in (new) Max 4. The "4" stands for four oars, manned by me and my son, Sasha. He was away at technical college and wasn't on the first two legs with me. But he has been a part of my rowing expeditions since he was 14, when we rowed the Lena River.

That time, testing our new boat Pella-fiord, we rowed 4,500 kilometers in 45 days. The next year we rowed the Onega River, from mouth to source. On that trip, I began to take notice of my son. Yes, I realized, he could do things. We made a perfect team, a good fit for each other. Now on this adventure, he has matured even more. He is 20, quite strong, and a perfect companion.

As we leave the harbour, the boat immediately begins jumping on the waves, as if she is happily anticipating this voyage.

19 August Today is my birthday (54th), and God granted us this hut on the shore of a wonderful isolated harbour. Here, protected from the winds, we were able to sort things out on the boat and make improvements. We have already learned that we cannot both sleep at the same time. There is not enough air in the tiny cabin, so we must drill holes.

Sasha is cooking dinner of reindeer meat, and we are having vodka. Fifty-fourth birthday...a lucky day. I'm still traveling, still excited about what I'm doing, still feel like I'm living, really living.

I can't remember the last time I had my birthday on dry land...can't remember the last time I had relatives with me while celebrating my birthday.

I will remember two birthdays forever. One, 1978, caught in pack ice, desperately trying to cross frozen harbour in a storm, white water boiling all around me, wind blowing and foam flying...

The other, 1983, in the Sea of Japan, under a huge, bright moon, quite still, with barely a ripple....

On September 30, 1992, Eugene and Alexander Smurgis reached Murmansk, an ice-free port and the largest city above the Arctic Circle. They had completed the third leg of the most daunting rowing adventure in history. Since leaving Dikson, father and son had covered 2,500 kilometers in 43 days. It was a real Smurgis family achievement, and Eugene was thrilled. Navigating stretches of free water flowing among ice packs, they had crossed the Kara and Barents Seas, all the while enduring ferocious winds, wrong-way currents, limited rations, and each other. They had made it--together.

Taking turns at the oars, they had averaged 4 kilometers an hour--when they rowed. Sometimes the land closed in around them, and they had to use a rope to drag the boat, sometimes over jumbled hummocks of ice.

There is almost no human life on the barren northern sea coast between Dikson and Murmansk. The rowers came upon only the occasional weather station, fishing village, or military site. The few people they did see invariably welcomed them as heroes and offered them supplies. Eugene would show them the letter he carried from the publishers of Around the World magazine, certifying that the Smurgis adventure was legitimate and urging readers of the letter to help. One can trace the progress of the Smurgis boat by the rubber stamps they received from the polar stations, some of which were adrift on ice floes.

When the Smurgises returned to Murmansk in June 1993 to begin the fourth leg, they were sure they had their papers in order. They would now be leaving Russian territory, making security an issue. At first the authorities gave them permission to leave. But then, after two hours of hard rowing out of Murmansk, they were abruptly surrounded by border guards and coast guard officers, who rudely dragged them back to Murmansk. They could feel the tentacles of the Russian bureaucracy closing around them.

Aided by Around the World magazine, the rowers had procured seaman's passports and, they thought, the necessary stamps. They registered as the crew of an "ocean-going vessel," which essentially let them leave the country anytime they had a good reason to go.

The stooges in the Ministry of Security, formerly known as the KGB, were slow to catch on, but they eventually decided the Smurgis boat did not qualify as an ocean-going vessel. Although the rowers' paperwork had been in perfect order, the bureaucrats waved their magic wand and rendered them worthless. Father and son were forced to return to Lipetsk to sort out matters. At first Eugene was furious, but he soon accepted the delay as just another in a long line of obstacles they must overcome. Two weeks later, they were back in Murmansk with new, improved paperwork.

Murmansk to London was a definite increase in intensity. The distance was 4,000 kilometers, much of it above the Arctic Circle. Then there was the North Sea, with its terrible headwinds. In all, they took 88 days, more than twice as long as from Dikson to Murmansk, and suffered untold hardships.

"It has been a constant battle against the weather," Eugene told an interpreter, "but at no time did we allow ourselves to feel afraid." With a touch of national pride, he added, "The boat was made by craftsmen from the Urals, so we knew it would get us through even the worst storms."

But that was then and this was now. And now In London they needed provisions and boat repairs and a new radio (their old one had a range of 5 miles). Eugene publicly offered to put any sponsors' names on the boat. Adding a little butter, he told reporters, "We wanted to visit Britain because it has been the home of so many great seafarers throughout history."

Added Alexander: "A lot of great sailors throughout history have set sail from London on transatlantic journeys. We are pleased to be following them in our rowing boat."

On September 29, 1993, four weeks after arriving in London, Eugene Smurgis rowed down the Thames and out into open water--alone. He had no sponsor and, more important, no son. His dream of rowing around the world en famille was in ashes. Alexander, after being detained as an illegal immigrant by English authorities, was en route back to Russia, while he was left to continue the journey by himself.

He was bitterly disappointed in his son. his sissy son. He had simply broken under the pressure, the deprivation, the sheer hard work. A big reason he had started the whole adventure, he told himself, was to share it with his son. It had been his chance to make a man out of him, but he had failed.

For Eugene, the difficulties and hardships were a gift of fate; he lived for such challenges. But Alexander was not like that, and it was a difference Eugene couldn't accept. So beaten down was Sasha that in London he nearly suffered a nervous breakdown. When Galenko or others questioned him about the Murmansk-to-London leg, tears would well up in his eyes and he couldn't speak. In a BBC interview, he responded to the inevitable "How tough was it?" question with a shake of the head and a mumbled,"Very difficult." Vanya Rezvoy considers it likely that Eugene stifled any talk that might be seen as a complaint.

Such relentless pressure sent Alexander teetering on the psychological edge. But Eugene could see only a son who, once obedient, was now a rebel, out of control. Galenko recognized what Eugene was blind to: The boy needed time to rest, time to restore mind, body, and spirit. Why not stop and celebrate the victory so far? suggested Galenko. But it was not to be. The invisible stopwatch continued to tick, even if Eugene was the only one who could hear it. After several quarrels, Sasha, fed up with the ironman routine, withdrew from the row.

Vasiliy Galenko sympathized with the boy. He knew almost as well as Alexander what it was like to share a rowboat with Eugene. He had accompanied him on a 1983 expedition along the Amur River to Vladivostok and the Sea of Japan (1,750 kilometers in 30 days), during which they ran smack into two typhoons. It wasn't so much that Smurgis was autocratic, rather that he was impulsive to the extreme, relentlessly determined to do things his own way and confident that it was the right way. That usually meant going rather than staying, if that was the debate. Although it was the ideal philosophy for a one-man boat, it was a tad insensitive toward a boatmate. For his part, Galenko finally realized that if he continued rowing marathons with Eugene, he would either die or have a nervous breakdown. Small wonder if Sasha had reached the same conclusion.

Still, you had to admire the old man's dedication, his tenacity. He had a bulldog's grip on this round-the-world expedition, and nothing could tear him away. Time after time, he ignored the warnings of others and rowed into the teeth of storms, only to emerge unscathed at the other end. His diary supports the impression of a man lacking the gene for fear. "They told me there will be a storm. Should I wait? Nah, I'll go." One by one, his companions succumbed to a dread that was alien to Eugene.

Of course, after more than 700 days and nights of rowing, Smurgis could be excused for believing that he was the most qualified judge of rowing risk. Who was going to give advice to a man who had spent almost two years of his life in a small rowboat?

The Coast Guard tried to. When it was time to leave London and head south for the Mediterranean, they urged Smurgis to stay inland and navigate the canals of France rather than brave the Atlantic Ocean and the dreaded Bay of Biscay. Not surprisingly, he ignored their advice, saying, "I don't want to soak my oars in fresh water anymore. I am an ocean rower now."

Dover 6 October, 2:00 a.m. As I slept on my boat, a dead silence was broken by a knocking. "Hello, I'm a Russian tourist and I sw you on TV. Would you like some vodka?"

I declined the vodka but accepted his offer of food. Then he asked for a photograph and I gave him one. He is also called Sasha, from St. Petersburg. His wife is Irish. Before he left to catch a ferry, he apologized for waking me. "I couldn't resist," he said. "Incidentally, where is your son?"

And so I had to lie and not tell this nice guy that my son just broke down, that he turned out to be a sissy.

The appearance of this fellow Russian is the only bright spot in these last few unhappy days of westerly winds and black clouds.

When I tried to leave, I progressed only 100 meters in one hour. Though I impressed the fellows in the pilot boat with my efforts, I had to return to the marina.

Dover 8 October I'm here with 120 Russian cadets from a huge sailing barque. Some of the cadets took a ride on my boat and liked it very much. I have been working on the boat and taking walks around town, thinking only one thing: Will the coming storms let me reach the Canary Islands?

Sasha, of course, is gone. The moment he smelled something burning on the stove, he defected. Perhaps the instinct for self-preservation is stronger when you're young.

I, on the other hand, have no place to retreat, no place to go back to. My money problems only seem to get worse. Even rationing my food, I have hardly enough for one month more. Yesterday I denied myself the pleasure of eating my one true luxury item--salted pork fat. I counted on selling some of the souvenirs I'm carrying for food money, but the beaches are empty and they won't let me sell in the cities.

Two German and two Dutch yachts left today, and now only one Danish catamaran and I are left. Spirits are low--I'm depressed--and rain every day adds to that feeling.

Awake at two on the morning to strong winds and waves. Try to change the position of the boat, but it is futile in these winds.

7:00 a.m. Looking out at sea from the pier, it is all white. Damn, damn, damn! Every day counts now.

The Russian captain of the barque invited me to attend their farewell dinner, but I declined.

Trying to leave, trying to leave. I harness myself to the boat and make a desperate attempt to leave the harbour. But low tide combined with wind drag me back. And that after the Russian captain talked me into trying at low tide.

Back in, I tie to a buoy and cook dinner. At 9:30 the pilot boat appears, and the captain tells me it's the right time to leave. Now I must battle not only rough seas but darkness. Still, I can see lights along the shore, so it is okay.

I have to sweat a lot just to get out of the harbour, but I finally make it. Good bye, land. Will I see you again? The pilot boat returns, signals with a siren, and leaves again. I never heard a complaint from those men, even though I cost them a lot of time and trouble. I will take it as a tribute to the importance of my mission.

The Dover Coast Guard warned Smurgis to avoid the treacherous Bay of Biscay, but of course that was daring a child, like waving a red flag in front of a bull. They urged him to use the French canal system instead. Once again he ignored the advice. Who dared tell him how to row, row, row his boat?

English Channel, 25 October Tied the oars and locked myself in the cabin, a dark place. And also dark thoughts about the future and my current situation. According to the plan hatched by Vasiliy and me, I should be in the Canary Islands by now...and I have yet to reach France.

In the mornings it is okay--my spirits are usually high. But once it gets dark, my spirits go down with the temperature. But it will be fine. The biggest ventures in life are hard, but you must do them all the way to the end.

I see this journey as a tribute to my father. Last time I saw him in a hospital bed, he told me, "No matter what happens to me, don't delay your adventure." He died soon after that, almost as though he preplanned his death so that I could be there to bury him. His timing was perfect--I didn't even have to postpone leaving for Murmansk.

Eight in the morning, rowing south. Can see three islands off Normandy (Channel Islands)...a lighthouse...and then a continent: France!

Island of Jersey 26 October Got my anchor stuck. Debated waiting for the current to change. But what if I wait and still can't get my anchor back? Cut the cable and lost the anchor. It was a good anchor that served me well not too long. It was a gift anyway. And that's how I lost 21 pounds of anchor and 50 meters of cable.

So now I have to get ashore and find a rock to make my spare anchor heavier. The shore here looks inviting. There are lots of nice green harbours and good places to get ashore.

Some Frenchmen approach shouting the name of (French ocean rower) Gerard d'Aboville. They are happy that I know of him, and they give me a dozen bottles of beer.

Bay of Biscay 14 November Spent the night worrying. I don't like this area, with the rocks nearby, a devilish neighborhood. How many souls have been lost here? I hope I won't add one more soul to the collection.

By 5 o'clock the boat is jumping more than ever. White water all around. I still see the rocks. It's two hours before the low tide will be over.

Finally I unhooked from the buoy and started rowing, trying to put a safe distance between me and the rocks. An hour and a half row against the current, crawling southeast. With the high tide, and the boat started going, going, going. Now I can relax and have some breakfast....

Got some breakfast, got some rest, and started rowing southwest with the current.

At night I saw that if the wind doesn't weaken or change, I will be blown back to La Rochelle, two hours of rowing wasted. If so, I will spend the night there, shower, send a fax to Vasiliy, and get in touch with the press...

It's too bad I'm spending all my energy correcting the effects of the wind. All the time I row southwest but move directly south.

I'm surrounded by shallows, and strange posts are sticking out of the water all over. I've tied off to a buoy. I will stay here until the next high tide, at 22:30.

Thus ends Eugene Smurgis's final entry. Sometime later that day, November 14, 1993, under mysterious circumstances, the Russian rower was thrown from his boat. The next day Max-4 washed ashore near the town of La Tremblade, on the west coast of France. Four days later, after a massive but fruitless search, Smurgis's body washed ashore nearby.

After Smurgis's death, Around the World published excerpts of Eugene's diary. Vasiliy Galenko continued to write articles publicizing the exploits of his difficult friend. Trying to explain what would possess someone to attempt to row around the world, Galenko pointed to the Amur River-to-Vladivostok expedition he shared with Smurgis: "We made it through 30 days and two typhoons. Eugene was ready to push farther. The time was ripe for a round-the-world trip."

Galenko suggests three other factors that motivated Smurgis: "First geographic curiosity, because he was a traveler at heart. Second, to make history. And finally, it was a romantic thing to do."

Galenko arranged for Max-4 to be donated to a maritime museum in La Tourblade "as a monument to the courage of the Russian adventurer." He also put together a memorial service for Smurgis in La Tremblade on April 2, 1994.

In response to an invitation to attend the ceremony, French ocean rower Gerard d'Aboville sent Galenko the following letter:

Dear Sir,

Thanks for your letter which I just received. Many thanks also for all the information enclosed.

Unfortunately I did not know about Eugene before a journalist informed me that a Russian rower was lost at sea in Bay of Biscay.

I would have liked so much meeting Eugene when he was in Brest, and maybe I would have been able to convince him not to cross the Bay of Biscay (a very dangerous place) in the time of year he tried to...

Slim chance.


Questions answered:


Are you not afraid you are going to die?

-In most cases that I've seen, working day to day in an office is like already being dead. I would definitely prefer to die on the ocean than lose my life to a typical career. Moreover, [death on the water, ocean, ect] would be beautiful. Consider the people who die of heart attacks due to business stress. That is an ugly death.


Is it worth risking everything for one ocean crossing?

-I see people who never risk anything and it hasn't taken them anywhere. The opposite attitude might, in the worst case, take me to the same place.

Why do you do it?

-The times we now live in offer so few gentle ways of living a life. I find extreme feats like ocean rowing to be among the most reasonable responses to our highly dehumanized reality nowadays. It contains something of the indigenous man with a bit of an adventurer touch. If you read the book Siddhartha (my favorite book and I highly recommend), you can see that even he who explored all of what life is, in the end chose to become a rower. I thought I would save time and get straight to the core :)


What kind of effort it is?

-If you really row for the record, it's more or less like this: Imagine you run a marathon. Now imagine you run two marathons a day. Imagine that you row them instead of run. Now imagine that this is going on for one month, and meanwhile you are not going back to a cozy clean bed, but sharing a small space with another sweaty big guy like you.

Are you not afraid of sharks?

-Not to lie and not to say the truth: I'm afraid of no sharks as long as I'm on the boat, or as long as the shark is in the water.

What if one or the other isn't?

-So as not to lie and not to say the truth, I don't think I would have any time to think about it. However, I always carry with me a little bag of curry in my pocket that I would pour over myself. I am for animals rights. When I lived in India, they would always tell me, 'when you see Bengali tiger approaching you, sit down, don't disturb him'.

How do you rest?

-I row 2 hours and rest 2 hours while another crew member is rowing. So it goes continuously 24/7.

Can you sleep?

-You try to, it ends up averaging 4hrs a day of successful sleep.

Do you take water with you?

-No, it would be impossible. Instead, there is desalinator that is powered by a solar panel

What do you eat?

-As you are on the ocean, you maintain a see food diet: You see food on boat, you eat it. However, you really should not practice a humanitarian diet (eat your crew mates)......not. You eat freeze dry food. You put hot water into it and it saturates in a few minutes. It tastes like plastic but it is the best you can get in this case.

How much water do you drink?

-Average 10 liters per day, depending on the day.


Do you loose weight?

-Yes, big time. Average weight-loss is up to 1kg (2.2lbs) per day. Plus, the food that you eat consists mostly of fat because it is the most compact form of energy. Such food doesn't really allow you to build muscles. Instead, being unable to regenerate, muscles are lost. It may seem that ocean-rowers would come back very strong, but it actually turns out to be opposite: one comes back totally exhausted and drained.


Do you really choose to put on weight up to 20kgs before the expedition?

It depends on personal choice and the way you cooperate with your body constitution :) It is not always clear answer "yes" or "no". I described it more extensively here (scroll down to the end of the chapter 4).


Do you see dolphins?

-We see all sorts of sea creatures occasionally. In fact, their presence is very supportive. Whenever someone produces stinky odours, says loudly as if annoyed: "Dolphin just did it!".


How do you wash?

-Hardly ever honestly, it is the last thing you think about.


How do you solve the toilet?

-There are all sorts of installations. Each boat has a different idea, but in the end, one way or another it ends up in the ocean.



How do you share such a small space with other people for such a long time?

-Space and time are factors, yes, and there are many others as well like being hungry, tired, dirty, stinking, injured, bruised....more than ever makes the conflicts appear way easier than it would be otherwise. You must simply try to repress it for the well-being of the row and work it through when you arrive on the land.


What do you like the most about it?

-Many things described in the blog... I think what first comes to my head though is this huge rollercoaster feeling which sometimes lasts 24/7 for free. The bigger waves the more pleasant.


How big are the waves?

-The waves stayed at a 6m peak (18ft) for many days on the Atlantic Ocean. On the Indian they are said to be 11m (33ft).


Is it comparable to being on a ship?

-No, a ship is big enough to stabilize the movements and doesn't entirely follow waves. The boat does. It is very different to see from zero level perspective.


Do you hallucinate of being tired?

-Yes, I described some of them in the journal. (blog archives)



How do you keep your ipod charged?

-plug it in to the same solar panel as desalinator for example. It might be unavailable during cloudy days.


What do your friends and family think about you doing it?

-In most of the cases they understand me and rather support me.


How many people rowed the ocean?

-Approximately 700.

Is it an official race?

-In a sense it is, yes. Part of the skill though is to estimate the best departure date, so it is not required to follow a particular time frame. What matters is average speed.


How can one prepare him/herself to such attempt?

Only to a certain extent... The challenge is 50% mental, 50% physical, though the proportions might vary depending on conditions on the ocean.In terms of mental preparation, your whole life that you've lived so far is a preparation. All of the moments in your past that you executed more effort from yourself, more determination, persistence, focus, and all of the moments that you handled pain and discomfort and that you pushed your limits... these will be an asset... For this reason, it makes logical sense to me that a person could take particular workshops and developmental classes as well that extend people's abilities in such fields, but I have not heard of people doing it just for the well-being of a planned expedition.

Physical preparation is also limited: In truth, you can never be totally ready. The performance of ocean-rowing is degrading to one's fitness rather than evolving because of its intensity. During the preparations stage you have to stay within the right amount and the right intensity of exercise that will evolve your fitness as much as possible without yet degrading (allowing you to regenerate). You also have to stay within the right amount/intensity of exercise that will make stamina and strength grow while weight continues to increase... It means you would work out in a very intensive mode for 3 hours a day in preparations stage. This has to be an aerobic mode though (not anaerobic). Otherwise, your weight will drop and in the long run, so will performance. So practically speaking, on the ocean a person will row for 12 hours a day but during the preparations it doesn't even make sense to row even for 4, because it would not let your body regenerate. Can you really be prepared? It is a tricky question. One day you just do it.

What else can you do to make it better?

-Personally, I use old Icelandic magic that I briefly learned from local sorcerers.


What might the conditions of the ocean be like?

-This video and it's description totally stands for ocean conditions. When I saw this video as a teenager I thought that it was surely an unreal interpretation of what ocean could be. Having rowed across though, I can now say that sometimes it looks exactly like this. The thing is, when days like this one come around nobody thinks about recording. Also, a camera wouldn't capture anything except for the darkness and the sound of howling wind. Regardless, no matter what kind of day it is there is no other boat next to you that could record your boat from a distance either. The wall of water spreading across the entire frame is absolutely realistic though. That's why I decided to keep this piece among my videos.



Fragment of the book "Siddhartha" by Herman Hesse

" ....The river knows everything; one can learn everything from it. You have already learned from the water that it is good to strive downwards, to sink, to seek the depths.....

....I do not yet quite understand,” said Govinda. “How do you mean?” Siddhartha said: “Once, O worthy one, many years ago, you came to this river and found a man sleeping there. You sat beside him to guard him while he slept, but you did not recognize the sleeping man, Govinda.”
Astonished and like one bewitched the monk gazed at the ferryman.
“Are you Siddhartha?” he asked in a timid voice. ‘“I did not recognize you this time, too. I am very pleased to see you again, Siddhartha, very pleased. You have changed very much, my friend. And have you become a rower now?” Siddhartha laughed warmly. “Yes, I have become a rower. Many people have to change a great deal and wear all sorts of clothes. I am one of those, my friend.....

....You know, my friend, that even as a young man, when we lived with the ascetics in the forest, I came to distrust doctrines and teachers and to turn my back on them. I am still of the same turn of mind, although I have, since that time, had many teachers. A beautiful courtesan was my teacher for a long time, and a rich merchant and a dice player. On one occasion, one of the Buddha’s wandering monks was my teacher. He halted in his pilgrimage to sit beside me when I fell asleep in the forest. I also learned something from him and I am grateful to him, very grateful. But most of all, I have learned from this river....."


reblogged from:


fragment of BEOWULF'S ROWING-MATCH by James W. Earl

The idea of a swimming-match is so deeply embedded in Beowulf scholarship, of course, that it can never be revoked, even if proved groundless; but here I present my little anyway, if only to discover its weaknesses.

This is no small issue. If by any chance my skepticism should prove justified, our reading of the whole poem would be affected. For the style of the poem has always seemed contradictory: on the one hand it is characterized throughout by typically Germanic understatement, much like the sagas; but on the other hand a certain few episodes display a more hyperbolic Celtic style. In fact, these hyperbolic episodes all have to do with Beowulf s awesome swimming abilities: not only do he and Breca swim on the ocean for seven days and nights with full armor and weapons (without food or water?); he also swims home from Frisia carrying thirty coats of armor, and he appears to be able to hold his breath for hours underwater in Grendel's mere. I for one would be pleased to find these universally accepted interpretations' mistaken, so that the poem might be more consistently Germanic in tone, the style more harmonious with the sobriety and realism of the poem's dark themes.

Though the marvelous and the supernatural abound in heroic literature generally, hyperbole does not, and it would certainly be hard to find such obvious and absurd exaggerations as these in the other heroic tales of Northern Europe (though some of the mythical stories of gods and giants in Snorri's Edda qualify as tall-tales). Among the Germanic peoples, litotes is not so much a literary style as a style of life, the natural ethical outcome of the stoical and tragic view of the world expressed so powerfully in Beowulf. A Germanic hero may occasionally be expected to kill sea-beasts and dragons among his other adversaries, as Othin and Sigurth (or Sigmund) do, but he is not expected to display grotesque or superhuman powers like a Cuchulainn. Briefly, the Germanic hero is macho, he is not Superman; Superman is definitely not macho. So Beowulf's alleged swimming powers could not be more untypical. They could only be explained as an Irish influence upon the style of the poem, and not a happy one in my view. If we read lines 506-581 of the poem carefully, but without the preconceived notion of a swimming-match, we will not find a swimming-match there.