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Current Hot Topic for December 2018


 Atlantic Christmas Crossing

Title

Atlantic Christmas Crossing

Background Story

Thought about where you will be this Christmas morning? Perhaps you’ll be taking time off over the festive period, opening presents around the tree and meeting far-flung family members for a special meal. The chances are you won’t be rowing a boat in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, attempting to set a new world record for the oldest woman to make a solo crossing.

Shirley Tho mpson (60), of Belfast, is planning to embark on a 3000 mile,  90 day trip that starts in the Canary Islands and finishes in  St Barts, an idyllic island in the Caribbean.  The challenge-  Solo Across the Atlantic- is being documented on her website  (www.shirlsatlanticrow.com)  which will provide regular up dates during the attempt, when she isn’t busy powering th e vessel! What is even more impressive is the fact that she on ly learned to swim in 2018 and having pioneered extreme m arathons in places as diverse as the Amazon Jungle and Antarctic a, she has now sought to challenge herself in a whole new  way, as reported on BBC News on 28th October.  

Whilst on h er journey she will face a range of challenges that would cert ainly put off many other would-be record breakers. “The fear  is part of the pleasure,” she explained, whilst in training during a BBC interview.  She wants to show that “someone o rdinary can do something extraordinary.”

Fancy com ing face to face with sharks, freak waves or gas bubbles? H ow about sea sickness, blisters and sunstroke? Only 15 w omen have previously rowed across the Atlantic solo and the  mental challenge arising from sleep deprivation, isolation an d physical exertion is extremely high. It will require resili ence and perseverance of the highest order. Yet this is only one example of the ex-luxury-jet stewardess’s activities, having pioneered running events that require “tremendous mental tenacity”.

The vessel she will spend the next three months in is a Pure Class, 7m x 1.6m rowing boat called RV Amigo which she bought online. This type of boat is typically made from plywood, weighs approximately 400 kg and has a cabin at the stern (rear), offering scant shelter from some of the most hostile conditions on the planet.
 
The Atlantic Ocean reaches incredible depths of 8,648m (Puerto Rico trench) and temperatures vary substantially from -2° in Polar regions to 30° Celsius at the Equator. Timing is crucial for the crossing, as this part of the world is a breeding ground for devastating hurricanes that form between June and November each year. Thankfully the boat is self-righting if it should capsize and has already made a Transatlantic crossing this year.

Not all attempts end in success, as seen in September 2018. Scottish adventurer Duncan Hutchinson attempted to cross in a homemade boat from New York and was pounded by two and half metre waves, before being rescued by a merchant tanker 863 miles off the coast of Cornwall.  

Such a challenge doesn’t come cheap. Shirley has sought to finance it through sponsorship deals with various businesses and philanthropic foundations. The promotional benefits of association with a world record-breaker are huge, allowing company logos to be carried on the boat, oars and clothing, as well as being allowed to make choices of charities for any additional donations raised.  

Despite her high level of fitness, the unique nature of the challenge requires intensive preparation- such as learning to swim, row and navigate. “My body has been around for 60 years. But I don’t see why it won’t get me to the other side.”

By March 2019, we will hopefully have our answer.


Social Media, a force for good and bad

Social media has been a key enabler for Shirley’s preparations. It allows her to keep in contact with supporters around the world. In addition, the high cost of such a venture has required financial sponsorship from businesses and foundations. This has been achieved partly through online promotion and regular updates using her website, blog and news media coverage. Like any tool, however, there are negative aspects, such as online trolling (where anonymous users make inflammatory remarks, designed to upset, without fear of reprisal).

What potential negative effects develop from the use of social media? How might information found in social media platforms be open to abuse? Which measures could be taken to protect more vulnerable users?


Gender and Age

Shirley is attempting a number of firsts- not only to be the oldest woman to row the Atlantic but also the first woman from Northern Ireland or the Republic. She is an ambassador for gender and age-related equality, demonstrating that any person is capable of doing whatever they set their minds to.

Why is it important for a woman to row across the Atlantic? Why might it be important for a 60 year old to row across the Atlantic? Does this suggest that British society is equal? Can you think of other ways equality and diversity should be promoted? Can you think of any recent news events that suggest inequality is still evident in society?


Extreme demands on physical and mental health

The physical and mental demands of rowing such a distance are as vast as the Ocean itself! Stopping to rest and refuel is essential, yet can often lead to currents carrying the boat back where it came from. Space is very limited and the regular kinds of exercise a body needs are restricted. The isolation created by a solo row, lasting 90 days, requires immense determination and mental resilience. This does not even take into account unpredictable weather, stray cargo containers, submarines or curious marine life.

What types of exercise should an adult do on a regular basis to keep healthy? How important is diet to physical and mental health? Why might the demands of the challenge change this diet? How might being alone for long periods of time, present additional challenges to mental wellbeing?


Freedom to pursue your dreams

Respect and tolerance go hand in hand with gender and age related issues. Shirley is raising the profile of both and helping to break down traditional stereotypes of the types of people who might/might not undertake such a challenge. This trip also demonstrates the liberty British people have to pursue their dreams and ambitions without prejudice.

How might we demonstrate such qualities in our daily lives? Can you think of a recent example where greater respect or tolerance could have been shown? Name 3 changes that could be made to support greater respect and tolerance? What challenge could you undertake and what positive attitudes would it demonstrate?


Freedom to pursue your dreams

Respect and tolerance go hand in hand with gender and age related issues. Shirley is raising the profile of both and helping to break down traditional stereotypes of the types of people who might/might not undertake such a challenge. This trip also demonstrates the liberty British people have to pursue their dreams and ambitions without prejudice.

How might we demonstrate such qualities in our daily lives? Can you think of a recent example where greater respect or tolerance could have been shown? Name 3 changes that could be made to support greater respect and tolerance? What challenge could you undertake and what positive attitudes would it demonstrate?

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