Fedor’s one small step followed one giant voyage
RUSSIAN adventurer Fedor Konyukhov took his first steps on dry land at Mooloolaba, after a gruelling 16,800km solo rowing voyage across the Pacific Ocean.
Around 250 onlookers, many cheering for the Russian hero and waving the white, blue and red flag of his homeland, watched excitedly as he completed his 160-day unassisted voyage, which started in Chile in December.
"I did this crossing only with the help of God," Mr Konyukhov, also an ordained Russian Orthodox Priest, said through his interpreter and son Oscar.
"I was praying every day, and I'm thankful to God for keeping me alive, because I had storms in front of me and behind me.
"There was lots of lightning around me, but never hit my boat."
Concerns had been raised by the Russian Consulate that the historic event, which has been followed by some 100-million Russians, could be hijacked by protestors objecting to the occupation of the Ukraine. But the extra police assigned to the arrival as a precaution were not needed.
The final hours of the crossing were drawn out as Mr Konyukhov faced difficult choppy seas and strong currents as he rowed closer and closer to the Mooloolah River breakwater and eventually the beach on the Mooloolaba Spit.
He admitted it was difficult acclimatising to the tall buildings of Mooloolaba and the noise produced by the excited onlookers.
"In the ocean, there are no voices, only whales and dolphins, and here I hear so many voices in different languages," he said through his interpreter.
"It was very quiet on the horizon, and here all the masts and tall buildings, it's very hard on the eye."
Mr Konyukhov is a national hero in Russia, having scaled Mt Everest twice, climbed the highest peaks on each continent, and trekked on foot to both the North and South Poles.
When he was asked, "why?" he alluded to the challenge of conquering new frontiers.
"To try to move the boundaries of human capabilities, and also I would like to inspire young children," he answered.
"You need to have a big dream in your life and then you will be a good person."
Among those welcoming him on the beach was Russian Ambassador Vladimir Morozov, who read aloud a personal message from Russian President Vladimir Putin, congratulating him on the achievement.
Mr Putin wrote he had "been watching the unique trip attentively".
"Thanks to the courage, tenacity and extraordinary human and professional qualities, you stood the test, conquered the sea," a translator read.
"You carried on a wonderful tradition of the great Russian explorers and travellers; you contributed to the ocean's reserve."