LONDON A Briton and his Dutch rowing partner will brave piranhas, bandits and disease in an attempt to be the first crew to row the length of the Amazon river in September.
Anton Wright, a rowing coach at Cambridge University's Clare College, and Cambridge academic Mark de Rond of the Netherlands will set out in their bright yellow ocean-going double scull from Nauta, Peru on Sept 1 for a six-week, 2,200-mile (3,540-km) river odyssey to Brazil's Atlantic coastal town of Macapa.
"People have kayaked it, walked it, swum it, but never rowed it, so I thought that's me, then," Wright told Reuters in an interview.
Along the way, the two will cut across Peru, row past the Colombian border and travel through the heart of the Brazilian rainforest on piranha-infested waters, facing the dangers of kidnappers, criminals and malaria armed only with satellite phones, a Twitter handle and a link to the British coastguard.
Wright, 38, said he conceived the idea on a river-rafting expedition along a stretch of the Amazon last year and then researched whether a rowing record had been attempted on the world's second-longest river.
The two adventurers will eat, sleep and carry all their food, water and medicine aboard a small vessel equipped with solar panels to power their communications, safety and navigation equipment. They will make occasional stops to replenish supplies at riverside villages along the way.
They will sleep in turns at night in order to keep watch for runaway logs in the water which could destroy their boat, anacondas, bull sharks, thieves, illegal logging and mining operators trying to keep their locations secret and drug traffickers in Brazil's vast rainforest.
"That's the main drug trafficking route these days, I've been told by locals," Wright said.
He and the 45-year-old de Rond will both be wearing personal beacons which will track their movements by satellite and the boat will have a beacon linked to the British coastguard at Falmouth in southern England, which will monitor progress and call local authorities in South America for a rescue if needed.
The challenge aims to raise money for the Leonard Cheshire Disability, a charity which helps to support disabled people and the two will be tweeting their adventures by satphone and updating their website (www.rowtheamazon.com) as they go.
"We have no realistic idea of what we're going to encounter," Wright said. "What could possibly go wrong?"
(Reporting by Paul Casciato; Editing by Michael Roddy)