We’ve been without signal for the first 8 days of Swim1000, my 7th journey of Expedition1000, a 1000-mile swim down the Lower Missouri River, accompanied by a team all of whom are paddling the full distance in a Mad River Canoe and by Lakeshore River Rover Stand Up Paddleboards.
Here’s a blog I wrote after two days on the river:
This is the biggest challenge I’ve ever taken on, bar none. Two days out from our launch point at Cedar Shore in Chamberlain, South Dakota, my body is sore all over. I feel nauseous. I’m exhausted. I’ve swum close to 11 miles and my team have paddled the same distance yet despite the aches and pains everyone is smiling. We have a real team here, and that’s why I’m not worried at all.
Seeing the final stages of Swim1000 come together in less than a week leaves me feeling something like a proud father. I’ve becoming used to taking trust falls - depending on the honesty and kindness of complete strangers - at the beginning of expeditions, but none more than this time. Jarett Bies and his wife Laura responded to an email I sent out two months ago asking for advice about the Missouri near Yankton and became our people on the ground. Jarett ran logistics, contacted media, set us up with further support up and downstream. Both he and Laura then opened up their delightful home to myself and the team as Ground Zero. Can you imagine letting 8 strangers into your home, let alone British ones preparing to embark on a huge endeavour? The team flew in jetlagged to the core. Jarett and Laura met them all and brought them home. Without them, the start of this journey would have been very different.
It hasn’t all been smooth sailing. A few sponsors let us down at the very last minute, leaving us without sleeping mats, a GPS and other basic items. But problems on these expeditions arise every day, we merely deal with them and move on.
Jessica of the Chamberlain Sun, Jim from Swenson Bros. Marine and Angela from the Cedar Shore Resort in Chamberlain lead a band of locals who have left the team in no doubt that human beings are intrinsically kind. From front page articles to taking receipt of our canoe and paddleboards, to organising a launch party and bringing supplies to our first night’s camp. Wow, strangers become friends fast in these situations.
A little highlight arrived in the form of Mark Kalch, my buddy from home and internationally river paddler who is currently descending the Missouri Mississippi to the Gulf. He bust a gut to reach Chamberlain in time for our launch party, so good for the team to feel part of a wider adventure community.
The journey ahead is a beautifully tough challenge. There is little to no current in the upper section of the river meaning our bodies need to condition fast to overcome a tremendously difficult first 170 miles or so. After that, once we reach Yankton Dam, the Missouri becomes a channel rather than an interconnected series of lakes, and then we have some assistance from the river.
Until then, it’s heads down. We’re exposed up here and high winds mean Day 3 of Swim1000 is one of rest. We’re camped in a small copse beside the river, the trees providing a little cover from a constant barrage of weather. The forecast says things will calm down tomorrow and I expect to be back in my Orca 3.8 by 7am, back to carving through water a mile wide, slowly strengthening my breast stroke, front crawl and back stroke while surrounded by four Lakeshore River Rover paddleboards and a Mad River canoe.
I’m so proud of my team. Emily, Annabel, Ness, Sarah, David, Ben and Miguel - who leaves us early tomorrow and is celebrating is birthday today - give of all the signs of being lifelong friends. After a long day on the water yesterday, battling big waves and high headwinds, they reached the bank without complaint and proceeded to set up camp and cook dinner in time for my arrival an hour later. I don’t get into gear this quickly when travelling by myself and it’s a testament to everyone involved that we even made it to the start line, let alone have become so tightly knit so fast.
From here, we have 989 miles to St Louis. As Doug the local farmer said to us this morning when he came across our campsite, ‘This is one hell of a trip’.
In seven days time my team and I will drop into the Missouri River at Chamberlain, South Dakota with one heck of a journey ahead of us. We each have a 1000 miles to travel, me in the water and the team on top of it.
Over the next ten days I’ll introduce you to the team one by one, as well as sharing some thoughts, expected challenges, shout-outs to the companies supporting us and also the cool stuff we’ll be working towards.
We’re not alone on the Missouri this year. It so happens that two of my friends are descending the entire Mississippi Missouri system by kayak. They’re currently upstream of our launch point but will catch us up at some point. Both Mark Kalch and Rod Wellington are highly experienced adventurers who are worth checking out, I’m really looking forward to seeing a now familiar expression on their faces, one which says ‘Cornthwaite, you’re a nutball.’
I’m currently in Salt Lake City, Utah, attending the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, one of the largest gatherings of outdoor equipment and recreation suppliers in the world. Making connections and putting faces to email addresses that I know off by heart is cementing support for both Swim1000 and Expedition1000 as a whole.
Monday 20th February 2012
Leicester Square VUE Cinema, London
Tickets available on the door
Imagine throwing in your job and travelling around the world with your girlfriend and 8 month old baby. Mitch Stokes did that. Or rowing across the Pacific Ocean taking a route that nobody else had ever managed to complete. Chris Martin made it. Or howsabout a 30,000 mile circumnavigation of the planet, by wheelchair. Andy Campbell is about to set off on that one. What about spending much of your early twenties in the middle of an ocean, highlighting global environmental issues and become an expert on plastic pollution? Hello, Emily Penn.
Not many people have travelled the full length of the Amazon, less than ten, in fact. Mark Kalch is one of them. Have you ever rented a Fijian island and set up a tribe there, and then done the same on a beach in Sierra Leone? Ben Keene has. Or what about developing a sports car to drive the length of the Americas, but powering it purely by electricity? Alex Schey, Ladies and Gentleman. Second youngest person to the North Pole and the second fastest ever to make it there. Parker Liautaud, you’re only 17, slow down! Leader of the first female team of 5 to row the Atlantic, at the same time as campaigning against human trafficking. Julia Immonen is fresh back on dry land. And then, being told you have Parkinson’s Disease at the age of 36 and deciding that you’re going to deal with it by running 10 million metres. Meet Mr Alex Flynn.
Frankly, as the only world record-breaking skateboarder who would 100% break an arm if he attempted a go on a half pipe, I’m honoured to be presenting the 7th Night of Adventure on 20th February in Leicester Square’s VUE cinema. All in aid of Hope & Homes for Children, the speakers above will stand beneath an enormous screen and share their own personal take on adventure.
It’ll be an inspiring, funny and memorable night. We hope you can join us.
On the 20th February 2012 a great line-up of speakers from the world of Adventure will descend upon Leicester Square’s VUE cinema for another night of high-paced drama in aid of Hope & Homes for Children.
Taking on a challenging format, each speaker has a total of 20 slides and 6 minutes 40 seconds with which to tell their story. Taking the most engaging and experienced speakers right out of their comfort zone, this is truly a Night of Adventure.
The speakers include:
Dave Cornthwaite (Host)
Dave is best known for his Expedition1000 project - 25 separate journeys of 1000 miles or more, each using a different form of non-motorised transport. Dave has broken five world records, crossed Australia on a skateboard, kayaked Australia’s largest river and descended the Mississippi River by Stand Up Paddleboard, but still thinks his greatest achievement so far is writing a book about dating. As Night of Adventure founder Al Humphreys is on holiday Dave will be hosting this event - here’s an interview with him about the Night of Adventure
In 2008 Alex was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, encouraging the formation of a life-changing endurance project. Before the end of 2014, the 10 Million Metres Challenge will take him more than 6,200 miles in races around the world (running, cycling, swimming or crawling the distance) to raise more than £1Million for research into Parkinson’s disease. The 10 Million Metres Challenge encompasses some of the world’s more interesting and dangerous races. Highlights include the 2010 Marathon des Sables, running across the Bavarian Alps and in 2011 traversing 1457 miles from London to Rome in 30 days. In 2012, Alex plans to cross 3200 miles of the USA in 24 days using five different disciplines, while all the time fighting against the relentless progression of the disease on his own body. A disease which currently has no cure!
Julia is 31 and comes from the world of media and PR. Julia was introduced to the injustice of human trafficking several years ago which started her journey towards helping fight the modern day slave trade. She has recently launched Sport Against Trafficking, which hopes to harness the positive power of community and sport to raise public awareness as well as funding for projects directly tackling human trafficking. On January 22nd Julia became the first Finnish person to row the Atlantic, as part of the record-breaking Row for Freedom team
How do you rent a remote tropical island and build an eco-community with no funding? That’s the question Ben Keene asked himself in 2006. A few months later he and his internet ‘tribe’ moved to Vorovoro Island in Fiji and began to live and work alongside the local fishing community to build a new kind of tourism village. 5 years later and Ben’s tribe has evolved. Having survived cyclones, fires and political coups in Fiji the project became well known locally for it’s promotion of cultural heritage. In 2010 Ben began a new community project - this time on the beach in the beautiful but scared Sierra Leone. The question this time was not of survival but how much could one village play a part in changing the image of a country? Ben’s adventure is one of turning an island dream into a social enterprise with significant potential impact, and as Ben is discovering it’s a journey that is only just beginning.
A professional Adventurer for over a decade, Mark will be kept busy for the next few years by his 7 rivers, 7 continents project, to paddle the length of the longest river on each continent. In 2007/2008 he rafted the length of the entire Amazon river, and in 2012 he will kayak alone the entire Missouri-Mississippi River system.. In 2009/10 Mark walked from north to south across the Islamic Republic of Iran, solo.
Chris Martin is one of the World’s foremost Ocean Rowers and an ex-international oarsman. Rowing for Great Britain he won a medal at each of the 6 World Championships where he raced. Subsequently he became the 30th person to row solo across the Atlantic Ocean. In 2009 he set the record for being first to row from Japan to San Francisco across the North Pacific Ocean. A hurricane, electrical storms, 60ft waves, onboard fire, secret US Naval base, whales and near starvation all threatened the success of the trip. The 189 day voyage across the Pacific became a titanic struggle for survival on the world’s largest ocean.
In eight years Andy has unintentionally gone from soldier to adventurer, exchanging the thrill of military operations for the exhilaration and frustration of exploring the world in a wheelchair. Paralysed in a climbing accident, discharged from the British Army and forced to re-evaluate life. Andy set off to test his new limitations and expectations for adventure and discover where determination, stubbornness and a healthy dose of rebellion could take him. His resulting adventures, from making first ski descents of Alaskan peaks, paragliding over Africa or trekking through the Himalayas have all formed a motivational catalyst for his next adventure. In June 2012 Andy will set off from the UK to push himself 30,000 miles around the world in a wheelchair.
In 2010, with an ever increasing need to scratch the “Wanderlust” itch, Mitch dropped out of the “rat race” to travel around the World with his girlfriend and one rather “precious” piece of luggage, their 8 month old baby daughter. When not away traveling Mitch works as a Telecommunication consultant. Also a keen long-distance cyclist, in June Mitch will be dodging volcanoes and cycling around Iceland in aid of Hope & Home’s for Children.
Emily, 24, has sailed around the world in several different guises. As the Operations Manager for the world record-breaking biofuelled powerboat, Earthrace, she co-ordinated events promoting alternative fuels in 120 international cities. Then, living on a remote island in Tonga, Emily organised one of the largest clean-up operations in the Pacific, which led to her joining the first expedition to discover accumulations of rubbish in the South Atlantic Gyre. Awarded Yachtsmaster of the year by HRH Princess Anne, Emily is now Programme Director for Pangaea Explorations, leading sailing expeditions around the world studying micro-plastics, coral reef biodiversity and toxic run-off.
Parker Liautaud is a 16-year-old polar adventurer and environmental campaigner. In April 2011, Parker completed his second North Pole expedition (his third polar expedition overall), becoming one of the youngest in history to walk to the North Pole - and in the second fastest time ever recorded.
While studying Mechanical Engineering at Imperial College, Alex found his passion in energy and the future of transportation. He realised that the technology for sustainable transportation was already present, but that the public were ill informed about its potential. In January 2009, Alex set up Racing Green Endurance; a project aimed at designing and building the world’s longest range electric car, and then proving this technology to the world by driving it the 26,000km long Pan-American Highway from Alaska to Argentina! Documented by the BBC, the project was well received throughout the world, and helped change public perception about electric cars forever.