Fiann Paul's Latest Mission Showcases A Rare Achievement in Human Resilience and Determination

Fiann Paul

You often hear about people breaking world records, but very few people are breaking records, like Icelandic explorer, athlete, artist, speaker, and Jungian analyst Fiann Paul. With a level of commitment to his craft and athletic endeavors that is nearly outrageous, Paul has accomplished several feats that were seemingly impossible before he achieved them. His most recent endeavor, however, may be one of his most ambitious yet.

Rowing across the Southern Ocean

Paul's latest extraordinary expedition saw him set out from Arctowski Station at King George Island to Orcadas Station at the South Orkney Islands with a rowing crew of five and himself. The rowers took hour-and-a-half shifts on the voyage, pushing themselves through sleep deprivation and harsh conditions. Still, it was worth it.

Paul is considered the world's most record-breaking explorer, holding the world's highest number of performance-based Guinness World Records ever to be achieved in a single academic discipline. He is also the first and only person to have ever achieved the "Ocean Explorers Grand Slam," with open-water crossings on each of the five oceans using human-powered vessels. This new expedition only further adds to his resume of awe-inspiring accomplishments.

In traversing over 400 nautical miles, Paul's rowing team set several records as a group, including the first row of the Southern Ocean from south to north; the first row from the Antarctic; the first row of the Scotia Sea; the southernmost start of an ocean rowing and human-powered open waters expedition; the fastest row on the Southern Ocean; the fastest polar row; and the first open waters human power polar expedition completed within the boundaries of the southern ocean.

Accomplishing record-breaking feats

If the group records weren't impressive enough, several team members also managed to set personal records during the expedition. Throughout his career, Paul has made an effort to support other explorers hoping to reach the same ambitious heights, and this expedition allowed him to do just that. Austrian team member Lisa Farthofer set records as the first woman to row on polar open waters and the first woman to row on the Southern Ocean.

With this expedition, Paul, alongside his fellow rower Jamie Douglas Hamilton an athlete from the UK set the record for the first people to row the Southern Ocean in both directions and the most rows on the Southern Ocean. As always, Paul has shown a steadfast commitment to pushing himself to the limits of his ability, which has allowed him to complete these near-inhuman feats of athleticism.

Paul also set the exceptional solo record of completing the Grand Hat Trick of speed records. For the third time in his career, Paul now holds three overall speed records simultaneously in the Indian, Arctic, and Antarctic Oceans. No one else in the world has held three simultaneous overall speed records even once.

"The feeling of being undefeated is extraordinary," asserts Paul. "There is something indescribably wonderful about doing something that no one else in the world can do."

Indeed, on this latest expedition, Paul discovered one of the only people who could defeat him: himself. On this expedition, Paul broke many of his own records, including the records for most polar rows now sitting at four the greatest aggregate distance on polar open waters, and the most days at sea on polar open waters. This proves that Paul is not satisfied with just being the best among his peers but strives to be the best he can be.

What this accomplishment means to Paul and his teamPaul's expedition is an astounding act of perseverance in the face of adversity. "As is the case with any expedition, there's a level of risk involved that presents an obstacle," he explains. "The extreme cold we faced on our voyage made it even more complicated. Still, we persevered and accomplished an amazing feat, rowing over 400 nautical miles against strong and unpredictable winds, unforgiving temperatures, and choppy waves."

However, for Paul, it's about more than just the title of being a record-breaker he wants his explorations to make a genuine difference in the world. On Paul's latest expedition, crew member Dr. Michael Matson led research using digital technology in real-time, highlighting the challenges to biodiversity in Antarctic waters, including live-charting illegal fishing vessels throughout the journey. As a result, in addition to being a phenomenal feat of athleticism, Paul's expedition is a way to secure protection for critical marine ecosystems in the region.

For Paul, this expedition marks the conclusion of a career filled with unbelievable adventures. "The best moment to change direction and charter a new course is when you are at the peak of your career, and you can use the momentum to drive yourself forward," he asserts. "A proper expedition is not about reaching a particular destination but making a bigger adventure out of it. With this expedition, and every other one I have done in my career, this is what we set out to do."