Rowing the Atlantic Ocean – one man’s journey of a lifetime
Lloyd Figgins is an Adventurer with many years of expedition experience, and the lure of a new challenge is never far away for Lloyd. In December 2011, with his rowing partner, David Whiddon, he embarked on a two-man expedition to row 3,200 miles across the Atlantic Ocean. During their mission, Lloyd collected data about the marine life that he encountered.
Here, Lloyd shares with us some of his experiences of his time on the ocean, and his reflections on the vulnerability of marine wildlife, and our responsibility to protect it.
I wanted to undertake some research that would benefit scientific understanding of the marine environment. We had a couple of advantages on this front: We would be travelling away from the main shipping lanes, so we could record sightings of marine life that otherwise might not be captured and we were also travelling slower than most other vessels, so would have more time to identify species.
Our first visitor was a Kemp’s Ridley turtle. It’s worth noting that six of the seven species of marine turtle are classified as threatened with extinction and three species are considered critically endangered, the Hawksbill, Leatherback and our little Kemp’s Ridley. We were therefore delighted that in this particular area just off the Moroccan coast we saw lots of turtles including one huge adult leatherback.
The only species of jellyfish we encountered was the Portuguese man o’war. It was a striking creature, but they pack a nasty sting. We always made sure we had a good look for them before going overboard for a swim.
The other thing we kept a close eye out for were fins. Seeing those would definitely cause us to postpone any overboard activities!
About 500 miles off the Moroccan coast we were visited by a 3.5-metre (11.5 ft) short-fin Mako shark, who followed the boat for a while before deciding against having an ocean rower for dinner. It was only when I got back to the UK that I discovered that between 1980 and 2010 there had been 42 recorded attacks by Mako sharks on humans.
A few weeks later we spotted another shark following the boat and this we were able to positively identify as a Thresher shark. Both Thresher and Mako sharks are considered vulnerable to extinction, so being able to record these sightings was satisfying.
About a week into the row we were visited by our first pod of dolphins. They are the most remarkable creatures and they seemed as curious about us as we were about them. From every direction they appeared – Atlantic Spotted Dolphins! They were swimming at the speed of the boat and looking up at us from just a few feet below the surface.
Finally, we were lucky enough to spot exceptionally rare pygmy killer whales, which, despite their name, are in fact dolphins. Little is known about them, but it is thought that a number of factors have caused a 30% global decline in their numbers over three generations.
It was a privilege to have such close interactions with so many species and it’s encouraging to know that the data we collected with be distributed to the scientific community.