Meet the Adventurers of the Year: Circumnavigator Jessica Watson
Each day we will feature one of the 2010 Adventures of the Year here on our blog. Get to know them all in our photo gallery, then vote for your favorite for the People's Choice award—every day. You can even vote for a new favorite each day, if you can't pick just one. Photograph by Sergio Dionisio, Getty Images
Jessica Watson sailed around the world, alone, as a teenager.
Before Jessica Watson steered her 34-foot yacht across four oceans, circling the globe without stopping once, her yacht had a collision with a 63,000-ton bulk carrier during the first night of a sea trial. Her boat, Ella’s Pink Lady, lost its mast. Her quest to sail around the world before her 17th birthday was already controversial, and the collision only seemed to strengthen the arguments against the young Australian—that she was too young, too inexperienced, and too immature. (These were also directed at Watson’s parents and two other young wannabe circumnavigators, siblings Zak and Abby Sunderland.) But Watson, who was raised on sailboats and is more poised than most, quietly returned to port, tended to her broken ship, and returned to sea. “Any doubts about whether I could cope mentally,” Watson later wrote, “vanished…I was stronger, more determined, and ready….”
On May 15, 2010, after 210 days, the smiling 16-year-old arrived in Sydney Harbor, the youngest single-handed, non-stop, unassisted circumnavigator of all time. This, too, would become controversial, for detractors took Watson to task for not sailing far enough into the Northern Hemisphere. No matter. Tens of thousands of fans came out to greet her triumphant return to Australia, while millions watched on national television. But perhaps more impressive were the numbers of people following her journey in real time, through her blog. Watson once wrote: “I could write about a fly landing on Ella's Pink Lady and someone would find it interesting.” And 447 encouraging comments followed.—By Ryan Bradley
Read more from Jessica Watson >>
- Nat Geo Expeditions