Leg 3, Day 34 – Feel the fear and do it anyway

Meg Dyos By

Day 34 – Feel the fear and do it anyway

But what is fear? And how does it differentiate from being scared? It’s a subject that myself and Ems were discussing on the oars last night, and as with the majority of conversations on Doris without the use of Google, it remains an inconclusive discussion. Surely it’s subjective and the above words mean something different to everyone? Pre-row this is something that Keith, our sports psych asked me to consider, and in doing so, collate a list of my fears of rowing the Pacific. Along with this, I was also to work on a list of things I was scared of, and to prepare a plan known as a ‘what if’ plan. The idea of this is to basically have a plan in place, and ways to deal with any situation that may arise that I was already scared of. The result being that having talked about the given situations prior to them happening would enable our body to go into survival mode if the said ‘what if’ arises as opposed to freaking out.

So yesterday, I felt my fear and did it anyway. It was a fear that I knew that I would be likely to face, but due to the rougher sea state that we have been experiencing it was also likely that I might not get the opportunity to actually face it.

– Swimming in the Pacific Ocean –

To be honest, it is not specifically swimming in the Pacific which was on my ‘what if’ plan, and fears list, but instead the potential sighting and/or contact with a shark. If you’ve been with me when I’ve been water skiing for the majority of my life, whether it’s in Sandwich Bay in Kent, or the South of France, you would have seen the panic in my face at falling off of the water-skis and waiting in the deep water for our boat to come back around and throw me out the rope. The thoughts running through my mind of whether I’d rather the shark bite my rear end, or my feet with the ski’s on! Irrational as it may sound, we all have these fears that we can’t explain, and whether it’s watching Jaws as a child, or is a fear that has appeared completely out of the blue I have no idea.

underwater

Ems and I lay in the cabin yesterday after putting up our Christmas decorations when we heard Laura say ‘can I suggest that we swim in the next hour?’. My heart pounded, and I lay there, silently hoping the idea might pass and I wouldn’t have to say the obvious ‘yes, absolutely, yes’. But it didn’t, and of course, an opportunity of a lifetime arose, and myself and Laura got ready for a dip. So, Snorkels on, Laura armed with her dads Volvo ice scraper ready for some overdue barnacle scraping, a quick pre-swim underwater shark check with a face plant into the warm Pacific; all clear, so in we plopped. Entering the water, it felt so amazing. Space! Space to stretch. Space to kick. Space to move our muscles in a different way to the last 33 days! But then the fear. Almost feeling my heart pop out of my mouth, I clung like my life depended on it to Doris, trusting that she would hide me from any roaming sharks! But then building up the courage to look around under water, and wow!

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There’s not even words to describe the expanse of the unknown, the unknown that we are actually rowing on top of. Without stating the obvious, and of course not that I was expecting to touch the bottom of the Pacific Ocean at a minimum of 3km deep, but it just goes down and down and down into an abyss of electric blue, now tainted with flying barnacles falling deeper and deeper into the below having been released from under Doris with Laura and her power scraping. Still clinging to Doris, I checked the surrounding area for any shark sightings, as brave Laura’s very poor wingman in the operation. And then, I couldn’t do it anymore, my body was shaking, and it was time to jump out. Looking up at Doris and being athletically challenged at the best of times, I was extremely happy that we had decided to put out the safety ladder, despite the girls saying it was easy to jump out without it!

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Landing onto the boat, and realising that actually we had the whole other side of Doris to clean, Ems took the baton and jumped in with Laura as I shark watched from out of the water. I sat there overlooking the biggest ocean in the world and became a little bit emotionally overwhelmed that I had just swam (if you can call it that) in her. Despite not seeing a shark, placing myself in a situation where my fear of sharks actually became rational, as opposed to skiing in Kent where the most you see is a seagull that wants to know if you have any food or not felt great!

What’s your biggest fear?

Update: It’s been a busy 24 hours! Last night at sunset, we heard Laura on the oars shout that she could hear a blow hole, so we all jumped out of the cabin, and coming towards us was a huge whale. Not sure what it was as we saw it really quickly and then it disappeared into the deep, But wow! Then, last night after Nat saying that we hadn’t seen an aeroplane pass us, me and Ems saw one fly across the whole sky. Perhaps the big octopus will be next after all! We also came within 6 miles of another passenger ship and could see it on the horizon due to the bright lights coming off of it. Finally, finally we can see Vanuatu in the distance – its a straight line to Cairns from here!

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9 Comments

  1. Simon TY says:

    Meg, I am glad you swam. That must be one of the highlights, perhaps as long as you do not think about it too much. Swimming above a few 1000 meters of water…..do not drop anything. Yet, all the time, wondering where and how quickly that shark is coming.

    Presumably Keith discussed the difference between rational and irrational fears. I am sure you have not worried about a meteorite taking you out ? But, coldly, objectively, how serious was the chance of a shark attack ? I appreciate that on a surfing beach you would take more chances than the middle of bloomin nowhere, but what has been the experience of different rowers, sailors and adventurers ? Is the orthodoxy that it is a mad risk to take ?

    I ask, partly because a row across the Pacific without any swimming at all would be like walking through a brewery ( for 200 days) and being told you could sample nothing ? Or going to Glastonbury, being told to where earplugs that deafened you. it would rather diminish the experience ?

    I wonder whether one of the realities is that a swim introduces a new smell ( and possibly, what a smell !!) to a stretch of ocean that would just be a magnet to any passing shark ? On a reef they are ( relatively) stuffed so you do not really worry about them and actually see quite a few. Whereas, mid Ocean, where food is scarcer, and the species rather larger, and new smell will inevitably bring them racing ? Answers please.

    Glad you though the Vanuata “gate”. it looked on the map like a barrier or gate that was taking a while to get to. I wondered whether the currents to the east of Vanuatu were swirling just to the east and free of that land mass, you might be into new currents ? Again, no idea what I am talking about

    Better mileage today, refreshed by yr swim. Hope you having a great day

    XXXX Simon TY ( and one for Doris X)

  2. Jim Andrews says:

    Great blog Meg I can relate completely to your fear of sharks. At least your fear is realistic, given your current location. I have had the fear of sharks since reading “Jaws” in 1976. I was snorkelling off Castara bay in Tobago in March and convinced myself that I was being targeted by every Great White in the ocean. Not just in that particularly exotic location, I feel the same when ever or where ever I swim. Don’t get me started on Crocodiles, I can’t even watch them on TV.
    If your speed keeps increasing as it is at the moment, you may be able to ski behind Doris? I am surprised at how quickly, barnacles become a problem. I am assuming Doris had a clean bottom when she left Samoa? I cannot believe how dodgy that sentence sounds! Stay safe. XX

  3. JG` says:

    Great blogpost Meg. I understand your fear of sharks and take my hat off to you for going into the sea despite it. Sharks apparentloy have an amazing sense of ‘smell’ and something as simple as emptying your black bucket will alert them to the presence of something that needs investigating. This is possibly why Fernando persisted for so long. Keep a lookout . By my reckoning I think you are less than a day’s rowing from the halfway point to Cairns and well into the Coral Sea. Great speed buildup as well! Brilliant job girls – not long now. Keep safe

  4. Barney says:

    I like the selfie photo underwater with a glimpse of one of the girls on the boat as well. You have been taking a few underwater shots since leaving Samoa so I guess it is a new toy. Mixed emotions about the pick up in speed, the faster you go, the fewer blogs we have left to look forward to!! Enjoy these moments, they are surely once in a lifetime experiences.

  5. Robert says:

    Great job, Doris can now slip through the water unhindered by barnacle drag.
    John Beeden is 490nm from Cairns doing 2.0kn and you are 800nm from John doing 0.5kn.
    According to GFS & OSCAR you have a light 4kn wind & a 0.3kn current both coming from approx the North.
    As the winds are going to be light for the next 4 days at least currents will be VERY important for you to make good progress. Make sure Tony routes you with them. A straight line to Cairns is not the best route.

  6. Ben says:

    Meg… I hear you 🙂
    Keep rowing and achieve your dream, nothing’s impossible!
    Ben xx

  7. Esther B says:

    Wow Meg!! You are so brave! I was scared just thinking about it but in you got! It really was too good an opportunity to pass up though and I’m glad you didn’t let your fear get the better of you.

    Love to all xxx

  8. pete mewton says:

    Great blog and pics Meg. Nice one of your intact unshark- bitten legs under the water. Keep Them safe.
    Greatest fear? Hmm. Swimming in deep remote shark inhabited waters, mid pacific, ALONE! (Think Id swim anywhere with friends.)That would do it. Though worse for me would be, deep underground having to squeaze through tunnel, or pothole just big enough for my body.(or is it?) Not sure Id even want to try to conquer that one Have lots of lesser fears too. Unlike you intrepid girls.
    Well done to you for facing yours.
    Good luck as this leg contiues. Sorry currents not more favourable. You have some very knowledgable people watching and guiding you it seems.
    Wishing you fair winds and no sharks but plenty of benign wondrous wildlife.

  9. Meg, great views into the depths of the Pacific Ocean, how amazing! When you’re back please come and give a talk at the Dragon on your wonderful adventure. Best wishes Robert

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