British women complete world first kayaking expedition from London to the Black Sea. The Oxfordshire duo raised awareness for Pancreatic Cancer Action as the first to cross Europe by kayak.
Kate Culverwell and Anna Blackwell will become the first people to kayak across Europe when they reach the Black Sea on 18 September. Kate, 20, and Anna, 25, set off on the Thames from outside the Palace of Westminster on 21 April 2018. They have paddled through thirteen countries and five capital cities on their 4,000km journey in a tandem Kayak nicknamed Benji. The journey to Romania has taken almost five months.
After her father passed away from pancreatic cancer in 2015, Kate was determined to find an expedition of scale to reflect the desperate need for funding and awareness of Pancreatic Cancer. 24 people die from pancreatic cancer every day.
Kate and Anna met through Kate’s online search for someone to take on this expedition with. The two have become fast friends, a bond which was essential to make the adventure a success.
Anna said, “It’s not been easy…we’ve dealt with rapids and whirlpools, we’ve narrowly dodged cargo barges that are several hundred metres long and survived long nights camping amidst storms. Yet our friendship and giggle fits continued to get us through whatever was thrown at us!”
Kate and Anna smashed their initial fundraising target of £50,000 and have set a new goal of raising £75,000 for Pancreatic Cancer Action, a UK-based charity whose mission is to improve the survival rate of the disease through early diagnosis.
Kate said, “Seeing our fundraising total increase through receiving donations from people we meet by the river was exceptionally rewarding and inspired us to keep paddling.”
Ali Stunt, founder of Pancreatic Cancer Action, said, “We are in absolute awe of how fantastic Anna and Kate have been throughout this incredible challenge. Their determination has been inspirational, and we have been avidly following their journey through their blog posts. Pancreatic Cancer Action would like to thank Anna and Kate for all of the hard work they have put in over the past months and we are so proud for them to be a part of Team PCA!”
The expedition took Kate and Anna through canals and rivers before meeting the Danube and paddling almost the entire course of Europe’s second longest river. During their journey they have also collected water samples and scientific data for FreshWater Watch, a research project of the Earthwatch Institute, which tracks nitrate and pollution levels in fresh water. All FreshWater Watch data is collected by volunteers like Anna and Kate, who were keen to put their time on the water to practical use.
They saw the effects plastic pollution on the environment first-hand as they travelled from London to Romania.
Anna said, “We’re really looking forward to discussing the findings with the FWW team when we get back and learning more about the waterways we’ve paddled on. It has been sad to see an increase in pollution, particularly plastic waste, the further east we have travelled. At times, the number of plastic water bottles covering the banks and bushes by the water has been truly shocking.”
You can find out more about their journey at www.kayakingthecontinent.com. To donate to Pancreatic Cancer Action through Kate and Anna, visit https://virginmoneygiving.com/kayakingthecontinent
Read the Paddler article on the expedition at: https://paddlerezine.com/2018/07/03/kayaking-the-continent/