A successful equatorial circumnavigation expedition
Posted by mappery on April 24, 2008
It brings me great pleasure to report that mappery recently completed the first human-powered circumnavigation of the globe along the equator by jumping from one equatorial landmass to another and paddling in between. Several times we approached land, but, wanting to maintain our course along the equator, we forewent the good feel of solid soil under our feet and continued on.
We began our treacherous journey in the Galápagos Islands in the Pacific Ocean, 604 miles west of Ecuador. After bidding adieu to a Galápagos giant tortoise on Isla Isabela, the mappery expedition team hopped into inflatable kayaks and started paddling madly east toward the South American continent.
A Galápagos giant tortoise bidding us farewell Image from galapagocruise.com
After intense paddling, we made landfall on the coast of Ecuador. We deflated our kayaks and started a long overland march through the vast wilds of Ecuador. Unwilling to compromise on our objective of veering from the equator even a fraction of a degree, we used our machetes to carve a linear route through dense vegetation. More than once we were forced to scale sizeable mountains, including a trek above 15,000 ft on the south flank of Cayambe, Ecuador’s third highest peak. The mountainous terrain was exhausting, and we were thrilled to finally put it behind us after a long effort.
Cayambe, 3rd highest peak in Ecuador Image from ime-usa.com
Next in store was a nearly 2,000 mile brutal slog through the jungles of Ecuador, Colombia, and the Amazon Basin of Brazil. When we finally hit the Marco Zero Equator Monument on the outskirts of Macapa, Brazil near the end of the Amazon River, we were ecstatic and celebrated our progress with an extra ration of water and one half cracker each.
Marco Zero Equator Monument, Brazil Image from Panoramio
After a bit of island-hopping in the Amazon headwaters, it was back to full-on paddling. This was a welcome change from the dense jungle and we paddled the 4,000 miles across the Atlantic in no time flat. To recover, we spent an hour or so lounging on the beautiful coast of Ilhas das Rolas in Sao Tome and Principe. Then, after a short walk east, it was “bak in the yak” for a quick 200 miles to the coast of Gabon. More jungle travel, by now old hat, consumed us as we proceeded deeper and deeper into the heart of darkness. Many chimpanzees, bonobos, and one gorilla took only brief interest in our expedition as we blazed a trail all the way across the Congo.
A Chimpanzee we saw in the Congo Image from wildabouttheworld.com
Some major river crossings, including the Congo River, presented some difficulties, but soon enough we were clear across the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, and cruising through Kenya beside the bulk of 17,058 foot Mt. Kenya to our south. We decided not to linger in Somalia and pushed off the east coast of Africa into the Indian Ocean with little fanfare.
Another 2,000 miles in the kayaks, and we had the unfortunate experience of passing through the Maldive Islands without touching land. The temptation to berth was incredible, but we knew it was just a mere 1,700 miles to the westernmost islands of Indonesia and then the big island of Sumatra, so we pushed on. The subsequent Indonesian islands of Borneo, Sulawesi, and Halmahera gave us some bonus rain forest time, and soon we were pushing off for our last great haul across the Pacific.
An Atoll out of reach Image from nasa.gov
Finally, with water running low and one kayaker using his hands for momentum after a shark devoured his paddle, we glimpsed the Galápagos on the horizon. Rolling in over the last few miles, we all congratulated ourselves on a continuous 10,000 mile paddle since our last landfall in Indonesia.
Getting out of the kayak proved a challenge – many of our legs had fallen asleep 4 to 6 thousand miles ago – but that didn’t dampen the celebration. Although a real beer would have been appropriate, since none were available we instead imbibed vast quantities of much needed water and all split the last fig newton. Overall, we had covered 24,901.5 miles all through the power of our bodies and the currents. Not bad for a 3 1/2 week trip.