Meet the Turkish adventurer who wants to row from the US to Gallipoli

52-year-old adventurer Erden Eruç plans to row across the Atlantic and Mediterranean to Cannakale near Gallipoli to arrive in time for the 2015 100 year anniversary of the landing at Anzac Cove. (Source: supplied)

A Turkish adventurer plans to row across the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the Gallipoli conflict in 2015.

A record-breaking Turkish adventurer is planning to row from the United States to Gallipoli to pay tribute to his countrymen and Australian and New Zealand soldiers who died in the Dardanelles during the Great War.

In 2012, Erden Eruç became the first person in history to make a solo human-powered circumnavigation of the Earth. The five-year odyssey took him from California to Papua New Guinea and Australia and then across the Indian and Atlantic Oceans and Africa to the Americas.

The 52-year-old’s next expedition will see the Seattle-based adventurer row from New York City to Portugal, a trip estimated to take three months, before heading through the Mediterranean toward Anzac Cove near Gallipoli in Turkey.

Eruç said the events of 1915 in the Dardanelles were significant for Turkey, Australia, and New Zealand.

“Nationhood for these three nations germinated there,” Eruç said. “This was the catharsis and turning point. It was important for the awakening of these nations from the ashes of two collapsing empires. The British may not like that kind of talk but that is what it is.

“There was mutual respect between Turkey and the Anzacs and that persisted. In 1916, people were talking about Anzac Day. There was no residual animosity.  The story is not really known outside our countries and that story has to be told. The 100th year coming up is a big deal.”

Eruç had planned to depart New York this weekend in his seven metre by two metre plywood rowboat but a back injury has forced him to reschedule his expedition.

A departure date is yet to be confirmed but the onset of the Atlantic’s hurricane season and seasonal winds near Europe may force Eruç, acknowledged by Guinness World Records as the first person to row three oceans, to target an arrival in Turkey to coincide with the 101st Anzac anniversary in 2016.

He is also considering now making the trip with another rower from Australia or New Zealand.

“It takes a special breed to commit to such a crossing,” Eruç said. “It requires a lot of preparation but you have to untie at a certain point and get out there.

“After about two weeks at sea you get into a routine and learn everything you need to be at sea up to about 80 per cent. It is the remaining 20 per cent that tests your preparation and forethought. A lot of forethought and risk assessment has to go into this. 

“You try to identify the dangers, the chance of that happening and the mitigation that goes with it. You fix things, replace things, or live without. I can only take so many spare parts and my skills. A lot of improvisation happens out there.”

The record-breaking circumnavigation was inspired by the death of friend and Swedish mountaineer Goran Kropp, who died in 2002 while climbing in the U.S. with Eruç.

Eruç has since also established a charity – Around-n-Over – which aims to promote education, especially for young girls. A documentary film on the 2012 expedition is also in production. Eruç’s Gallipoli trip is in association with AKUT, a Turkish search and rescue organisation.

The epic 2012 journey also saw Eruç walk the Kokoda Trail across Papua New Guinea and cycle across Australia from Cooktown, Queensland, to Carnarvon, Western Australia. He cycled across Africa from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic after being escorted by a Turkish navy ship off the coast of Madagascar coincidentally operating as part of an international anti-piracy mission.

“The biggest danger at sea is boredom,” Eruç said. “The city is noisy and there are a lot of distractions. People talk about multi-tasking but it is persistent distraction. All these things reduce our productivity. It is actually very peaceful out there and it is a luxury to be able to turn off all this stuff and have just raw nature. There is a sense of ‘I am alive again’.”

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