Many people who strike out to sea do so to escape the hustle and bustle of their technological chains.
Roz Savage is not one of those people. While escape is what she did when she left her career in investment banking to row across the ocean, it was by no means an escape from technology. With a satellite phone as her connection to the outside world, she continually updates her fans, friends and loved ones on a number of different social media technologies.
It started eight years ago in 2001, when Roz was living the suburban dream: she was married, had a successful career, and lived in a big house; for many that would be more than enough. But not for Roz. Undergoing a period of self discovery and reflection, she set out to explore Incan ruins in Latin America and chronicled her experiences in the book Three Peaks in Peru. Shortly after, rowing came roaring (back) into her life.
Make no mistake about it, rowing was not something Roz just picked up overnight. As an accomplished rower at Oxford and marathon runner, she already had the makings of a great athlete. In 2005, after approximately 3000 miles of rowing (approximately the distance from San Francisco to Washington D.C.), she became just one of a handful of people to row across the Atlantic Ocean. Now in her forties, Roz is at it again, this time tackling the Pacific with a message of ocean preservation.
Not one to shy away from technology, she’s as connected as they come in social media. You name, it she uses it: Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, blogs, and podcasts. You can even track her rowing progress throughout the day on the RozTracker, which lives on the web and as an iPhone app.
Roz is currently on the 2nd stage of her row across the Pacific Ocean. She took a few moments with us to answer a few questions about how technology and social media has impacted her life.
With your level involvement in social media (from blogs, podcasts, and tweets), the online world is almost like a 2nd member of your crew; is that a correct assessment or is it something different?
“I’d say my crewmate is definitely a slacker then – NEVER takes his turn at the oars! I do very much enjoy sharing my adventure through social media. When I’m feeling down it’s good to share my problems with a grumpy Tweet, and when I want to celebrate passing a milestone or I’m excited about seeing a shark or whale or turtle, I love being able to share that too. But for 23 hours of the day I’m alone, and even when online I can only do email – so although I really cherish my online audience and think about them often, I also very much feel that I’m still doing this row solo.”
Has there been a time where social media has come to the rescue in your excursions?
“Last year both my watermakers broke and I was going to run out of my water reserves about a week before I reached Hawaii. People following my blog posted comments to say that the JUNK raft was approaching my bit of ocean. I’d already been in contact with the crew before we departed on our respective voyages, but we hadn’t actually come up with a plan to rendezvous. But once my commenters told me the JUNK boys were nearby, I was able to make contact with them. They told me they were running out of food but had plenty of water. I had no water but plenty of food. So we were able to meet up for a mutually satisfactory exchange of goods – and a slap-up fish supper into the bargain!”
The JUNK Raft is a project to raise awareness of plastic buildup in Earth’s oceans. It’s two mariners have literally built a raft out of junk and trash and most recently sailed from California to Hawaii in 2006. You can read about them here.
At your time at sea (and your time on land as well), do you feel the need to disconnect from the online world, or even all technology altogether?
“When my satellite phone broke on the Atlantic crossing, leaving me totally without any means of communication for the last 24 days of the voyage, I was actually quite pleased. I wanted to know that I could manage alone – and it was in fact a real privilege to be able to step off the world so completely. But now, just 4 years later, I’m more of an Internet junkie than ever, so I’m looking forward to getting back online!”
…so much so that Roz had mentioned that she had dreamed about her iPhone.
If there was one piece of technology that you don’t have on your journeys, real or not, what would it do?
“I’d love to be able to get broadband Internet access! I have to use my Iridium satphone as a data modem, and the data speed is a painfully slow 2.4kb/second. So I can’t browse the Internet, or send or receive any large attachments. It’s email only. The technology does exist, but the cost is prohibitive – as is the size of the antenna. It would probably sink my boat!”
For those that are curious, you can find a number of high speed satellite data options at sea from Network Innovations, Wired Ocean, and Fleet Broadband, but, as Roz mentioned, they are far from cheap and quite large.
Are there any other projects you are currently working on, will be working on, or would want to be a part of?
“My biggest project right now is the eco-initiative for stage 2 of my solo Pacific crossing: I call it Pull Together. My goal is to take action on CO2 levels by inspiring people to walk more and drive less.
I’ve asked my supporters around the world to Pull Together, and have presented them with a challenge to match my 10,000 oar strokes each day with 10,000 steps – the minimum that doctors recommend for good heart health. They can fit more walking into their routines by walking to the coffee shop or grocery store rather than driving, or even just park on the far side of the lot at work. It’s actually not that difficult to accomplish with a minimal amount of effort. Pulling Together is good for our bodies, and for the planet!
I really believe that this is an especially timely message—in December 2009, delegates from around the world will arrive in Copenhagen for the United Nations conference on climate change. Decisions made at this landmark summit will set the environmental agenda for the next 10 years which, according to experts, are the most crucial years in the history of humankind. I am deeply concerned that we won’t be able to avert global disaster if we don’t change our ways radically enough, and quickly enough.
That said, I think it’s so important to focus on solutions, and what’s needed right now is action. This year I’ve partnered with the United Nations Environment Programme, Al Gore’s Climate Project, and many other groups in hopes that together, we’ll be able to tackle this issue at both grassroots and international levels.
The global effort undertaken during the Pull Together challenge will symbolize a massive walking petition, the results of which I will deliver in person to the Copenhagen Summit delegates. The idea is to show politicians and decision-makers attending the summit that their constituents around the world want decisive action taken immediately to reduce global CO2 levels.”
In addition to the aforementioned, Roz is currently taking part in Project Niu, an educational program aimed at K-12 students which gives them hands on access to satellite tracking technology used to monitor the ocean. Using a high tech “message in a bottle” (nicknamed Niu’s), students learn how ocean currents affect living (and non-living) organisms. Roz’s latest boat is outfitted with one of these trackers, named “Niu Hae Akala“. You find out more about the project and the technology here.
With that, we’d like to thank Roz for taking the time to answer our questions and wish her the best of luck on her current trek!
Roz currently has a book due out this fall called: Rowing the Atlantic: Lessons Learned on the Open Ocean, which you can preorder today on Amazon. To get involved in any of Roz’s projects or to leave a donation, visit her website at rozsavage.com.