Frantz Romer

Frantz Romer

German merchant navy captain who crossed the Atlantic alone in a kayak
Country: Germany

  1. Biography of Franz Romer
  2. Early Life and Preparation
  3. The Atlantic Crossing
  4. The Journey's End

Biography of Franz Romer

Franz Romer, a German captain of the merchant fleet, achieved fame for his solo crossing of the Atlantic Ocean in a kayak. Despite this feat, Romer did not consider himself a winner. He intended to reach New York, and until he accomplished his goal, he did not consider the journey complete.

Early Life and Preparation

Franz Romer was a captain in the German merchant fleet and had a passion for exploring the ocean. He had successfully completed various solo yacht voyages across the ocean, which had earned him a reputation among seafarers. This reputation caught the attention of a German company that manufactured boats and kayaks. They offered a substantial reward to anyone who dared to cross the Atlantic Ocean in a kayak. Romer accepted the challenge.

Romer personally designed and built the kayak for his expedition. He saw this journey as a scientific endeavor to study the possibilities of rescuing shipwrecked individuals in the ocean. The kayak had a length of 6.5 meters, a width of 0.95 meters, and a draft of 0.25 meters. It had foot-controlled steering and a small auxiliary sail of approximately 5 square meters. Despite its larger size, the kayak provided minimal movement space for Romer. He had to spend the entire journey sitting down, covered with a rubber sheet to protect the kayak from waves.

The Atlantic Crossing

On March 28, 1928, Romer set off from Lisbon, Portugal, heading towards the Canary Islands. However, unfavorable weather conditions forced him to turn back and take refuge in Sagres. On April 17, Romer ventured into the ocean again, this time from Cape San Vicente. Despite encountering a severe storm, he managed to reach the Canary Islands after eleven days, covering 600 miles.

Although Romer experienced extreme exhaustion, he refused to give up. After a lengthy rest on the Canary Islands, he embarked on his journey once again on June 3. For fifty-eight days, Romer persevered through incredibly challenging conditions, rowing or sailing with a small sail. Nobody saw him out in the ocean, and there were no updates about his progress. He only had about twenty-five relatively calm days during the whole journey. Romer developed a rhythm of sleeping for a few seconds while the kayak slid down the wave, followed by a couple of seconds of wakefulness when the kayak passed over the wave's crest.

Throughout the journey, Romer faced numerous hardships. He struggled with cold temperatures and constantly had to pump out water that seeped into the kayak, despite the protective rubber covering. The kayak was also attacked by sharks multiple times. However, Romer's incredible willpower and physical fitness allowed him to overcome these adversities.

The Journey's End

On July 30, 1928, a barely conscious Romer was spotted in his kayak near the shore of the small island of Saint Thomas, part of the Virgin Islands north of South America. He was incredibly emaciated, his eyelids swollen from the sea water, and his body covered in wounds and burns. He was transported to a nearby hotel, where he slept for two days straight.

When Romer finally woke up, he received an invitation to a celebration organized in his honor by the local residents. However, he was unable to attend due to his weakened state. He spent several weeks in the hospital, recovering from the illnesses and injuries he sustained during the two-month battle with the ocean. The island's governor awarded Romer with an order of merit, similar to the one Charles Lindbergh received for his transatlantic flight. Romer also received congratulatory messages from Germany, announcing his award from the manufacturing company.

Despite all this recognition, Romer did not consider himself victorious until he reached New York. On September 8, he set off for the second time, despite the violent hurricanes raging in the Caribbean Sea. Unfortunately, no further news about Romer's journey emerged. It is speculated that a powerful hurricane in the Lesser Antilles region may have caused his kayak to sink. The true nature of his disappearance remains a mystery. However, the fact remains that Franz Romer accomplished the incredible feat of crossing the Atlantic Ocean alone in a kayak.

Romer's successful voyage inspired many others, including German adventurer Engler. He attempted to replicate Romer's journey, starting from Lisbon and successfully reaching the Canary Islands. However, he disappeared in the ocean and was never heard from again. Another earlier attempt to cross the ocean in a small canoe by Rowerl, an American of German descent, also tragically ended. He drowned during the first leg of his journey from Boston to New York when his canoe overturned.