Thursday, May 22, 2014

American Kayakers Paddling Volga River Source-to-Sea

Here's an expedition that has been underway for awhile already, but had slipped under the radar a bit. Americans West Hansen and Jeff Wueste are kayaking the Volga River in Russia, going source-to-sea over its entire 2300 mile (3700 km) length. According to them, this will be the first full descent of that river, which is the longest in Europe.

The men set out back on April 13, and have already been on the water for 40 days. According to the expedition's website, they have already completed 1344 miles (2162), leaving them with just 956 (1538 km) yet to go. Initially, West and Jeff had hoped to wrap up the entire journey in about 50 days, but it appears that they'll run a bit longer than that.

If the name West Hansen rings a bell, it's because he led the first descent of the Amazon River that we followed closely back in 2012. Since then, a new furthest source of the Amazon has been discovered, adding 57 miles to the length of the river, and another team is now making the first descent using that location as its source.

West and Jeff have been posting regular updates from their adventure, and they report that the Russian countryside is beautiful. They also indicate that they have been encountering swarms of mosquitos, in numbers far worse than they were in the Amazon. West tells his home team they've seen little else in terms of wildlife however, coming across just frogs and swallows. Unlike the Amazon, the Volga also has a series of dams that they must portage, which adds a different challenge to their adventure.

I exchanged emails with West awhile back, as he was looking for some contacts for possible sponsorship on this expedition. At the time, he indicated that he had something big in the works, but he wasn't quite ready to share it just yet. Now I know what he's been up to, and I'm glad to see he was able to get this new adventure off the ground. I wish him and Jeff luck on the final stages of the journey.


West Hansen said...

The National Geographic Amazon Express expedition was not the first complete paddling descent of the Amazon. This title goes to Joe Kane and Piotr Chmielinski and their team from the 1985 expedition made famous by the book "Running the Amazon". Our expedition, in 2012, was the first to paddle the complete Amazon river from it's most distant source, which was discovered in 2012 by Rocky Contos. This discovery was written up in AREA journal and included collaboration with the University of California. I know of no other expeditions down the Amazon, save for, which took place in 2013 and of which I was on the support team for the first three weeks. Please elaborate on any other sources to which you're referring and other expeditions currently underway. Thanks --West

West Hansen said...

Also, Jeff Wueste and I completed the first descent of Volga on June 10th with a great amount of support from many fine Russians along the way and my incredible support and management team back home in Texas. Now, it's time to see some sights in Russia before getting to work on the documentary.

Kraig Becker said...

Thanks for the correction West. And congrats on wrapping up the expedition!

West Hansen said...

No sweat, Kraig and thanks. The Volga has become such a part of our life over the past two months that we feel rather out of joint on the land at this point. Currently, we're in Elista checking out it's unique history, honing our chess skills and making out way back to Moscow via Volgograd. I'll get to work on the documentary immediately, so the rest of the world can see the wonderful land, river and people we've come to know so well.

Piotr Chmielinski said...

West, West, thank you for your clarification regarding our Source to Sea Amazon Expedition 1985-86 and congratulations for nomination for the Spirit of Adventure award at Canoe and Kayak Magazine for your "VOLGA SOURCE-TO-SEA".