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Ocean Rower Fiann Paul Completes Most Grueling Expedition

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Fiann Paul holds more than 14 Guinness World Records and has endured 171 days of open-water rowing in all the world’s oceans. Yet none of his previous expeditions hold a torch to the six days he just spent crossing the Southern Ocean.

“It was by far the most difficult expedition I’ve done, logistically and weather-wise,” Paul told Men’s Journal a week after completing the row. “I still have pain in my hands.”

Paul, who hails from Iceland, captained a team of six experienced ocean rowers, including Americans Dr. Mike Matson and Brian Krauskopf, Austrian Lisa Farthofer, Bulgarian Stefan Ivanov, and Brit Jamie Douglas Hamilton. They left King George Island, just off the Antarctic continent, on January 11, 2023. After six days covering 407 nautical miles, the team ended the row at Laurie Island.

“We accomplished about 80 percent of what we set out to do,” says Paul.

Fiann Paul and crew pre-departure at King George Island, Antarctica.

Fiann Paul (far right) and crew at King George Island, Antarctica, pre-departure.
Courtesy Image

The team set three Guinness World Records: First to Row from the Antarctic Continent, The First Row on the Southern Ocean South to North, and First Row on the Scotia Sea. Theirs was also the most southern start to an ocean rowing expedition and the fastest polar row, averaging 2.85 knots. In addition, Farthofer became the first woman to row on polar open waters.

The legendary Shackleton expedition inspired Paul’s route choice. In 1914, famed British explorer Ernest Shackleton sailed to Antarctica with the aim of becoming the first person to cross the continent from one side to the other. But before he could begin, the sea ice crushed his ship, stranding the team on ice floes and shifting the focus to survival. After a year stranded on ice, in April 1916, Shackleton led two lifeboats on an 800-mile journey across the Scotia Sea to a whaling station on South Georgia Island. It’s considered one of the greatest survival stories and small boat voyages of all time.

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