In this post on 2 February, I wrote about the Oceanus transatlantic rowing challenge and the endurance needed to survive more than a month at sea rowing a small boat for 12 hours a day.
It was with great sadness that we heard yesterday that Mike Johnson was swept overboard by a wave strong enough to break his safety rope. The severe sea conditions made it impossible for the crew to turn the boat in time to rescue him. Details are on the Oceanus website.
Two aircraft had been searching for him, a cargo ship changed course to aid in the search. The search has now been called off. The rest of the crew has been taken on board the cargo ship and will be taken to the closest port.
At the time of writing, Mike has been in the water for close to 40 hours. The prayers and thoughts of his family, friends and all who had followed the rowing challenge are with him and his parents. Despite the odds, we are all hoping for a miracle.
Mike is my sister-in-law’s nephew, he had stayed for many weeks with her and my brother in England while waiting to join the British Army. Sue and I knew his parents well, like us, they were farmers forced off their farm in Zimbabwe. They are still living in that country, on a friend’s farm, one of the last few not yet taken by the government.
It brings tragedy close to home once again, we have had a respite in the years living in the peaceful, calm environment of Canada.
Challenge is part of life, so is Risk
Overcoming adversity makes us stronger, more resilient, but when does the risk outweigh the rewards and benefits of the challenge?.
We will never know until we take up the challenge.
If Mike had not been swept overboard and the crew had broken the record which they were on track to do, they would have been heroes. The risks would have been forgotten, blown away by the triumph of completing the voyage, breaking the record, surviving.
People can get killed or seriously injured in many sports. I have known people who died playing polo, polo-crosse, rugby, golf, while running, canoeing, cycling and just walking. Sadly, one who collapsed from a fatal heart attack while playing in a fathers vs sons soccer match against junior school boys.
Accidents take lives even where this is no intentional challenge. Car crashes, industrial accidents, terrorist attacks or encounters with criminals.
Life can be dangerous. We can calculate the risks involved in any endeavour, we can do everything in our power to reduce them.
Sometimes, all the planning, precautions, risk analyses, are just not enough. Circumstances arise from beyond our radar and cause accidents, tragedies.
Should Mike have been persuaded to change his mind about going on the rowing challenge? Many people tried, he was adamant that he wanted to do it.
We make our own choices, he knew the risks, the dangers and accepted them.
Perhaps he has paid the ultimate price.
Many more will take on huge challenges, some will succeed, some will fail, some will die.
We can stand on the sidelines and offer opinions and advice. As parents we can try to stop our children taking dangerous risks. But once they are adults, we cannot make their decisions for them. As painful as it is, we have to let them make their own choices, support them and deal with the consequences.
Sometimes they will face and overcome challenges, sometimes they will fail and sadly, some times the consequences will be devastating.
It’s their lives, their choices.
Mike, I hope for that miracle, hope to meet you again in this world, to congratulate you on your resilience. If not, I will salute you for your courage, endurance and spirit of adventure in the next.
risk graphic courtesy renjith krishnan / freedigitalphotos.net