June 8th, 2010
11:46 AM ET

Opinion: Rowing across an endangered ocean

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[cnn-photo-caption image=http://www.cnn.com/video/living/2010/06/07/ted.roz.savage.ted.640×480.jpg caption="Savage spoke on Mission Blue Voyage, which sought to accelerate efforts to save the oceans." width=300 height=169]

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World Oceans Day, June 8, arrives this year at a time when people are especially focused on the safety of waters threatened by the Gulf oil disaster. Yet it is also a time when more people are committing to work to preserve the oceans than ever before.

Among them is Roz Savage, who last week completed the third and final leg of her effort to row across the Pacific Ocean. Savage was one of dozens who took part in the Mission Blue cruise in April, organized by the nonprofit group TED to develop a strategy to save the oceans.

In her talk on the Mission Blue cruise, taped before the final leg of her Pacific journey, Savage estimated that her trip across that ocean required more than 8,000 miles of rowing, spending 312 days on her own in a 23-foot rowboat. Savage is the first woman to row solo across the Pacific, from the West Coast of the United States to Papua New Guinea. (Maud Fontenoy rowed a shorter route from Peru to Polynesia in 2005.)

Learn more about the "Mission Blue Voyage."

Once a management consultant based in London, England, Savage says she knew from day one that the career wasn't right for her. But she didn't get serious about making a change until she was in her mid-30s.

"I sat down one day and wrote two versions of my own obituary, the one that I wanted, a life of adventure, and the one that I was actually heading for which was a nice, normal, pleasant life, but it wasn't where I wanted to be by the end of my life."

She wound up competing in the Atlantic Ocean rowing race, from the Canary Islands to Antigua, a 3,000-mile run. "Sure, I had wanted to get outside of my comfort zone, but what I'd sort of failed to notice was that getting out of your comfort zone is, by definition, extremely uncomfortable. And my timing was not great either - 2005, when I did the Atlantic, was the year of Hurricane Katrina. There were more tropical storms in the North Atlantic than ever before, since records began. And pretty early on those storms started making their presence known."

All four of her oars broke before she reached the halfway mark - and Savage was forced to improvise using a boat hook and other equipment on the boat.

The Mission Blue Voyage was a product of undersea explorer Sylvia Earle's 2009 TED Prize wish "to ignite public support for a global network of Marine Protected Areas, hope spots large enough ... to restore the blue heart of the planet." The Galapagos cruise attracted leading scientists and celebrities such as Glenn Close, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jackson Browne, Edward Norton, Elizabeth Banks, and Chevy Chase - and resulted in $15 million in pledges to protect the seas and advocate for new policies.

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Filed under: Opinion
soundoff (One Response)
  1. Kirsten Verdi, San Antonio, TX

    Didn't know there was an Ocean Day....how ironic that we have this disaster on Ocean Day, hopefully something good will come of it!!!!

    June 8, 2010 at 2:29 pm |