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B.C. women scientists have begun a 5,000-kilometre rowboat race

The four women will travel 5,000 kilometres across the Atlantic Ocean in a row boat — without stopping.
Four women are racing across the Atlantic Ocean non-stop in a row boat.

A non-stop race across the Atlantic Ocean in a rowboat has begun for four female scientists from B.C. and Alaska.

The race is hailed as the World’s Toughest Row spanning 5,000 kilometres, non-stop, and it officially started on Dec. 13.

Teams must row without stopping and without support — from San Sebastian de La Gomera in the Canary Islands to Nelson’s Dockyard in Antigua. The crew of Salty Science believe it will take them 40 to 55 days to complete the voyage.

Lauren Shea, a master’s student at the UBC Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries, came up with the idea and convinced Isabelle Côté, a professor of marine ecology at Simon Fraser University, as well as Chantale Bégin and Noelle Helder, to join her.

The team will spend 24 hours a day on the 28-foot rowboat, where they expect to face physical exhaustion, challenging weather and sleep deprivation. 

On Wednesday, the Salty Science team said their goodbyes and set off at 8:35 a.m. 

The team is currently in 14th place out of 38 teams. Their current speed and heading has them on a trajectory to land at their destination on Jan. 23, though that could change as they face challenges ahead. 

The women represent three generations of marine scientists who are all connected through research and education. 

Shea hopes the trip will inspire others.

“We are hoping to inspire other people in marine science, other women who work in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), but we are also really excited to go on this adventure altogether,” says Shea. 

Three organizations will benefit from the fundraiser: Bamfield Marine Science Centre on Vancouver Island; GreenWave in the U.S.; and Shellback Expeditions in the Eastern Caribbean. 

“We're raising money for three different marine conservation organizations that are tackling different issues in ocean conservation, but also have a really big education component of their program,” says Shea. 

They’ve raised $240,429, just shy of half of their goal of $500,000. 

To follow the team, you can download this app, look for the World’s Toughtest Row Atlantic, and search for Salty Science.