Local men attempting to row 2,340-mile Mississippi River: “We smell the sea”

Monday morning the local men attempting to row the length of the Mississippi River posted a short message on Twitter and Facebook: “… We smell the sea.”

The men are less than 20 miles from finishing their 2,340-mile adventure in which they’ve made educating students a priority. The OAR Northwest’s Rowboat Classroom started in early September at Lake Itasca in Minnesota. They’ve stopped for presentations at schools along the way.

But even for a group of men who have rowed across the Atlantic Ocean, this was no easy trip. On Nov. 13, crew member Greg Spooner sent a text that read, “The local weatherman says it’s 9 degrees colder than some places in northern Alaska. The river keeps on giving … This is more physically grueling than rowing across the Atlantic.”

The rowers include University of Puget Sound graduates Spooner, Patrick Fleming and Jordan Hanssen. Canadian adventure filmmaker Markus Pukonen is also rowing.

Hanssen and Spooner launched OAR Northwest in 2005, and in 2006 they set a Guiness Book of World Records for crossing the North Atlantic with two other UPS graduates. In 2013, Fleming, Hanssen and Pukonen attempted to row from Africa to Miami, but they needed rescuing when their boat capsized less than 900 miles from the finish.

OAR Northwest’s goal is to make “Adventure: Mississippi River” an annual trip that “inspires students to experience an adventure in their local environment, understand the potential environmental impacts of their actions, and engage the rich history and diversity of species along the Mississippi River and its immense watershed.”