The Historic Rows
Apart from the crossings made by large ships captained by the likes of Columbus, Cabot, Magellan, Vespucci and Drake, there have also been those intrepid explorers who either set sail or rowed much more precarious vessels across the Atlantic.
About 500 A.D. St Brendan and a few other brave monks set out in a leather skinned, canoe shaped, traditional Irish round-bottom boat. They returned with tales of crystal pillars, giant sheep and mountains spewing fireballs. Although it sounds like fiction the fact remains, it can be done. It seems certain that the priests got as far as Vinland as the Vikings referred to the lands south of Vinland as Greater Ireland. In 1976, Tim Severin recreated both the vessel and voyage.
In 1000 A.D. the Vikings, perhaps emboldened by the plucky priests, set sail and landed in North America. Both these trips were coast hugging voyages, which is not surprising when you consider the terrifying vastness of the ocean.
After Columbus ‘discovered’ America, crossing the Atlantic seemed to be fair game for men bent on empire-building for their respective home nations.
It wasn’t until the summer of 1896, that two young clam digging Norwegians loaded supplies into a small open skiff called ‘Fox’ and left New York for St Mary’s Scilly Isles off the southwest coast of Cornwall, England. They entered history as the first pair to row across the Atlantic. It took them 55 days. Their lack of safety equipment alone is quite frightening when you consider the rules regarding safety equipment today. If they got into trouble there was no way to get help. There was no such thing as dehydrated food in 1896 and the weight of tinned food for two men for 55 days would have been high. What did they do about fresh drinking water? ‘Heroes’ doesn’t even begin to describe these two men. Despite the hardships they must have faced they continued on to Le Havre, France.