National Geographic : 1989 Jan
OUND for the unknown, Sea Tomato heads south (below) through Chile's Paso Pratt on day one of the voyage-Febru ary 22, 1988. Our plan is to row the entire distance to Ant arctica, but contrary onshore winds delay our departure for 30 days, as they did for three full months the previous year. We finally decide to sail the first leg of the voyage, then pick up west winds offshore that will push us along as we row southeastward across the Drake Passage (map, pages 132-3). Built for strength and safety rather than speed, Sea Tomato takes her name from her bright red color and bulbous shape. Making ready for sea (right), our navigator, Mark Eichen berger, bends Sea Tomato's jib onto the forestay. His hands are protected by rowing gloves that leave the tips of the fingers free for work. Our chartered Chilean support vessel, the fishing boat Don Alberto, escorts us the first few miles, then turns back. We are four now against the sea: Mark, 35; Fred, 32; Jay, 33; and I, at 42, the leader of the expedition. Each of us has had extensive Antarctic experience or many years at sea. Our "fifth crew member," meteorologist Bob Rice, weather monitor in Bedford, Massachusetts, is not optimistic about our chances. "This project," he says solemnly, "has as low a probability of suc cess as any of the 40-odd that I've assisted. Chances are 50-50 that the Chilean Navy will have to go after you."