Today in Transportation History – May 10, 2010: The Youngest Person to Circumnavigate the Southern Hemisphere Arrives Home in Australia

Just three days before her 17th birthday, Australian sailor Jessica Watson – arriving in Sydney Harbour at 1:53 p.m. in her boat Ella’s Pink Lady — completed a solo non-stop circumnavigation of the Southern Hemisphere. A pink carpet was set out for her and, as she walked on it after getting out of the boat, thousands of people welcomed her back to Sydney by singing Australia’s national anthem.

Watson was born in the city of Gold Coast in the Australian state of Queensland to parents who moved there from New Zealand a few years earlier. By the time she was 12, she had developed a strong ambition to sail around the world. Watson’s efforts to accomplish this goal began in earnest at least as far back as the early part of 2008, and the formal announcement of her circumnavigation plans was made in May 2009.

Watson, who crewed on several vessels as part of her training, began her around-the-globe voyage when she sailed from Sydney on October 18, 2009, in Ella’s Pink Lady. She made her way eastward within the Southern Hemisphere, passing Cape Horn on the southern tip of South Africa in January and the Cape of Good Hope on the coast of South Africa the following month.

Watson’s 210-day voyage covered an orthodromic distance of 18,582 nautical miles. This was less than the orthodromic distance of at least 21,600 nautical miles required by the World Sailing Speed Record Council for a voyage to be considered a certifiable global circumnavigation. Nonetheless, Watson was still hailed by many as the youngest person to perform a solo non-stop circumnavigation of the Southern Hemisphere via Cape Horn. Her official honors for her accomplishment included a Medal of the Order of Australia in 2012.

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