SOLO Background Information
SOLO Background Information Named after the Dutch explorer, Abel Tasman, the Tasman Sea is one of the loneliest stretches of ocean on Earth. With very little shipping traffic, it is the 2000km stretch of ocean between Australia and New Zealand reaching up from the notorious Southern Ocean, famous for powerful winds known as “the roaring forties”. Andrew McAuley was not the first to attempt to kayak across the Tasman. Renowned kayaker, Paul Caffyn, had twice attempted the feat (in 1987 & 1989) in a double kayak, and both times turned back. An accomplished mountaineer, it was only after a climbing accident wrecked Andrew’s knee that his wife Vicki introduced him to kayaking. It seemed something pretty safe the two could do together, but Andrew soon saw its potential and began to push the boundaries of exploration. Vicki and Andrew had talked about the Tasman trip for many years. Meanwhile, he embarked on many preparatory expeditions, taking on Bass Strait three times, completing the first ever non‐stop crossing. A year later, he made another first by crossing the Gulf of Carpentaria, a 530km journey that took him seven days. For this achievement, he was named Australian Geographic Society Adventurer of the Year in 2005. The final leg in his preparation was a three‐man 1000km sea‐kayaking expedition along the Antarctic Peninsula in 2006. Crossing the Ditch Several months before his departure, Andrew became aware of another team planning an attempt in a similar time frame. Two younger men, James Castrission and Justin Jones, known as “Crossing the Ditch”, announced plans of their attempt to cross the Tasman at more northerly latitudes. They were to paddle from Sydney to Auckland in a purpose built kayak, with high‐tech safety and navigational equipment, and a sleeping cabin built on the back. Andrew’s plan was to complete the crossing in a standard sea kayak with minor modifications. His intended route was from Tasmania to Milford Sound in New Zealand, entirely below the 40th parallel in much colder and more dangerous waters. Despite some friendly rivalry between the two teams, there were clear differences in their approach. Eventually, the Crossing the Ditch team delayed their attempt to make modifications to their kayak, leaving Andrew to depart first. Castrission and Jones eventually did make history on January 13, 2008, when they paddled their vessel into New Plymouth on the west coast of New Zealand’s North Island, 62 days after setting off from Forster, on the NSW coast of Australia. They had travelled 3318 km – 1221 more than they planned. Andrew’s First Attempt His initial attempt in December 2006 was abandoned two days into the trip, when Andrew realised he could not survive the cold and wet sleeping conditions for over a month at sea. He was suffering from hypothermia after the first night. He returned to shore, made more modifications to his 6.3m kayak to improve the situation, and made plans for a second attempt. Andrew’s Final Expedition Just six weeks later, Andrew made his second attempt. His support team included weather expert, Jonathan Bogais, who sent him daily text message weather forecasts by satellite phone. Andrew knew that in this part of the Tasman Sea, he would probably have to endure at least one major storm. The Tasman didn’t fail to deliver and, on 31st January, he was struck by a Force 9 storm, of similar size to the 1998 Sydney Hobart Yacht race disaster in which six people were killed. Boat builder, Paul Hewitson, knew that the expedition would mean Andrew would spend three‐quarters of the trip out of helicopter‐rescue range. “In 15‐degree water you only last hours. So, if he ran into trouble that would be the end of the road, pretty much.” Incredibly, both the kayak and Andrew survived the storm, with only minor damage to a pivot arm on the kayak’s capsule, nicknamed “Casper”. He was three‐quarters of the way to New Zealand, and the future weather forecasts were looking good. The support team were incredibly relieved, and it looked like nothing could stop Andrew from achieving his goal. On 9 February at 7:13pm, New Zealand’s maritime safety authority received a call from an exhausted and hypothermic caller. “Do you copy? This is Kayak 1. Do you copy? Over,” he said in the first part of his message. The Fiordland maritime radio dispatcher acknowledged him: “Roger you loud and clear. Go ahead.” “I’ve got an emergency situation. I am in a kayak about 30 km from Milford Sound. I need a rescue.” “Roger, understand you have an emergency situation. Please repeat your message,” responded the dispatcher. The rest of Andrew’s message was broken by static, but a phrase here and there was clearly decipherable: “My kayak’s sinking...I fell off in the sea, and I’m going down...” These were the last words of adventurer Andrew McAuley, who was lost at sea, heartbreakingly close to landfall after the first crossing by kayak of the Tasman Sea. When Andrew McAuley capsized and was separated from his kayak on February 9, 2007, he was in sight of land, approximately 60km from the New Zealand coast. He had been at sea for 30 days, and had travelled almost 1600km. Andrew left behind a wife, Vicki, and three‐year‐old son, Finlay. His body has never been found.