After rowing in the icy waters of Antarctica, my fingertips are numb

Jacqueline Douglas-Hamilton

Adventurer Jamie Douglas-Hamilton claims that his most recent attempt to row across some of the world's most dangerous waters has left him in excruciating pain.

He claims, "I still have no sensation in my toes or fingertips.

Even from my bed, I was unable to move without grabbing onto objects in my path. ".

In the Southern Ocean and Scotia Sea of Antarctica, Jamie was one of a crew of six who endured 30ft (10m) waves, debilitating seasickness, bitterly cold winds, and unrelenting terror.

Before the challenge was abandoned early due to the ferocious winds and potential for frostbite, they covered 407 miles in six days.

When leaving King George Island, the crew narrowly avoided a fast-moving ice flow, according to Jamie, who described the conditions as "horrendous" from the outset.

During the chilly argument, the 41-year-old Edinburgh adventurer experienced frost nip in his hands and feet, which worsened when he got home.

Originally scheduled for December 2021, the trip had to be delayed after Jamie learned he had a heart condition that, in his opinion, would have prevented him from surviving the journey.

In August 2022, he undertook the challenge just five months after having open-heart surgery, which left him feeling as though he had been run over by a bus.

Jamie Douglas-Hamilton
The trip, according to Jamie Douglas-Hamilton, was the hardest thing he has ever done.

On January 11, the international crew departed from King George Island in the Southern Ocean, 120 kilometers (75 miles) off the coast of Antarctica.

For six days, they rowed in 90-minute intervals.

The challenge led them to Laurie Island, the second-largest of the South Orkney Islands, via Elephant Island. Laurie Island is located approximately 604 kilometers (375 miles) north-east of the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula.

The weather was too bad for them to travel the additional 500 miles to South Georgia Island as planned.

"We all suffered from sea sickness to some degree and one member had chronic sea sickness to the point he couldn't hold any food or liquid down and was evacuated to the supervising vessel following us before getting hypothermia," Jamie said.

Strong westerly and north-westerly winds made it increasingly unlikely for us to travel far enough north to reach South Georgia; if we had kept going, we would have had a chance of less than 50%.

"This became even more obvious after one rower fell ill and several others started to develop frost bite. ".

Jamie added: "The waves were enormous and it was like looking up at fast moving walls of water the size of warehouses.

"In the icy water, we nearly completely capsized several times. It made me very nervous.

The cabins were like cold, humid fridges with everything being soaking wet, including our sleeping bags. These rowing boats are designed for the warm weather of mid-Atlantic crossings.

We occasionally experienced uncontrollable shaking in our legs, which eventually spread to our torsos and nearly brought on hypothermia. ".

On the expedition, the crew faced formidable 30ft (10m) waves.

The crew, despite completing the challenge early, set eight world records, including the record for the furthest distance rowed across the Southern Ocean.

As the "forgotten hero" of Sir Ernest Shackleton's Endurance expedition, which attempted to be the first to cross the Antarctic continent, Jamie said he had undertaken the expedition in Harry McNish's honor.

McNish traveled with Shackleton on his tragic expedition, which ended in the sinking of the expedition ship by pack ice in October 1915.

Due to a rift with Shackleton, McNish was not awarded the Polar Medal despite building a new boat on the pack ice with frostbitten hands.

Without him, they would have all perished. He sealed the hull with flour and seal blood.

Jamie is asking that McNish, who passed away penniless in New Zealand without the use of his hands due to frostbite from the journey, be given the Polar Medal posthumously.

Jamie Douglas-Hamilton with Harry McNish's great nephew, John McNish
John McNish, the great-nephew of Harry McNish, and Jamie Douglas-Hamilton.

Jamie has already successfully completed three additional risky rowing challenges.

He has rowed the Drake Passage and was a member of a crew that rowed from Chile to Antarctica in 2019.

He claimed that despite only lasting six days, this most recent argument was more difficult than his previous ones and that it might take months for him to fully recover from the frost nip in his fingers and feet.   .

The beautiful moments included being followed by penguins, whales, and orcas, as well as seeing enormous icebergs the size of towns, according to Jamie. ".

I once rowed the entire length of the Thames from Windsor to Henley, but to row in 90-minute shifts, eight times per day, in the world's coldest and roughest seas in less than five months after open heart surgery is inspirational, according to Sir Ranulph Fiennes, who is recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as "the world's greatest living explorer.". ".

  • Antarctica's front row.
  • initial row on the Scotia Sea.
  • Southern Ocean from south to north first.
  • Southern Ocean rowing record holder.
  • most rapid polar row.
  • starting point for a rowing expedition in the south.
  • longest distance rowed (407 miles) on the Southern Ocean.
  • With Fiann Paul (Iceland) and Jamie Douglas-Hamilton (United Kingdom), they have the most rows on the Southern Ocean.

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