Aussie woman Michelle Lee has become the first woman to row solo, unassisted, and non-stop across the Pacific Ocean. What a powerhouse!


Sharks, cyclones, and hurricanes couldn’t deter this Aussie legend as she rowed for a mind-boggling 237 days and 14,000km across the Pacific Ocean, from Mexico to Australia. 

Armed with her eight metre by two metre carbon fibre boat, The Australian Maid, Michelle has become the first woman to make this immense journey solo.

She set off for her epic adventure on the 8th of August last year, departing from Ensenada on the west coast of Mexico. After an unfathomable number of paddle strokes, she hit Australian shores last Wednesday morning.

As Michelle rowed into northern Queensland’s Port Douglas, she was greeted by excited friends and supporters, as well as tea and scones – her recovery meal of choice.


How did Michelle find the experience?

Michelle managed to dodge five hurricanes and four cyclones during her journey, but wrote in her blog that her experience with the Pacific Ocean was a ‘pleasure, privilege and [an] honour’.

‘You’re just experiencing and witnessing Mother Nature in all her runway-ready, take-me-as-I-am, natural beauty,’ she told the ABC.

‘Some days she’s better than others, and she certainly puts you through the paces.’

Did Michelle get lonely?

While the only human contact Michelle had was through her satellite phone, the ocean life meant she was never truly alone.

She described her encounters with wildlife as a ‘massive highlight’. Michelle was trailed by two sharks for weeks, and at one stage, four baby sharks began swimming beneath her boat. She thinks the parents left their children there, believing them to be safe in her care. It didn’t take long before an additional 50 or so ‘babes’ joined them.

‘I have become the nursery,’ Michelle wrote in her blog. ‘It’s very cute. Everyone is in harmony with each other.’ 

Unfortunately, one of the ‘magnificent water dragons’ stretched the friendship a bit much, leaping on board Michelle’s boat.

She wrote, ‘I’ve had a shark land on my deck! He thrashed around like a maniac until exhaustion’.

Sharks weren’t the only wildlife Michelle encountered.

‘Turtles and bird life have entertained me and left me fascinated,’ she described. ‘I’ve been harassed and accosted by very determined birds to land on my boat. I chase them off due to their crapping habits.’


What did Michelle’s friends and family think of the adventure?

Michelle’s close friend Corinne Gardiner told the ABC that a support network had followed along for every step of the journey. 

‘There have been long, long chats on the satellite phone,’ she said.

‘We’ve had a few tears together. We’ve had a lot of laughs together. We’ve been talking constantly,’ Corinne said.

Michelle’s Mum, Margaret Lee, told the ABC she nearly ‘died of fright’ during her daughter’s journey, however she was ‘relieved and very excited and just happy that she’s home’.

Was this just a once-off adventure?

Not one to shy away from a challenge, Michelle spent 68 days in 2018 rowing solo across the Atlantic Ocean. Despite having no professional rowing experience, she was the first Aussie woman to achieve this feat. Unsurprisingly, the 5,000km row earned her the title of 2019 National Geographic Adventurer of the Year.

She wrote in her blog that her ‘consciousness and appreciation for home comforts is so much greater as a result of the everyday challenges and sacrifices’.

‘That’s why I love and respect adventure so much. It has a truly lasting after effect that lies deep within your soul.’

‘It is addictive.’

Clearly, she wasn’t joking – she’s off hiking the 1,000km long Camino de Santiago in three weeks’ time! Is there anything she can’t do?


Feature photo by Robin Skjoldborg