Aleksander Doba, a Polish traveler, adventurer, and world record holder who — in his 60s — became the first person to kayak unaided across the Atlantic and set the world record for the longest open-water kayaking expedition, has died while climbing Mount Kilimanjaro:
The 74-year-old – once named by National Geographic as its Adventurer of the Year – had been “fulfilling his dream” by climbing the world’s highest single free-standing mountain, according to a Facebook post by his family on Tuesday.
Doba reportedly reached the summit of Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak at 5,885 metres (19,341 feet), at around 11 a.m. on Monday morning and asked for a moment’s pause before taking a photo. He then fell unconscious and could not be resuscitated.
Doba, who was born in 1946 in Swarzęd near the western Polish city of Poznań, was best known for his long voyages by canoe. In 2010, at 65 years of age, he became the world’s first person to kayak across the Atlantic Ocean relying solely on muscle power (previous efforts by others had been aided by sails).
The almost 99-day-long solo journey across the narrowest point of the Atlantic, from Senegal to Brazil, set the world record for the longest open-water kayaking expedition in history.
Three years later, the intrepid traveller then paddled 12,427 kilometres across the widest point of the Atlantic from Portugal to Florida. He repeated the feat again in 2017, this time travelling eastward from New Jersey to France.
“The First Transatlantic Kayak Expedition was to check myself and my kayak,” Doba told National Geographic in 2014, when he was named Adventurer of the Year. “The second trip was to raise the bar.”
“I have two sons and two granddaughters. I hope they will learn not to be afraid to dream, turn dreams into plans, and bring plans to reality,” he added.
Doba also circled the Baltic Sea and Lake Baikal in Russia in a canoe and was the first to swim the entire Polish coast – between the towns of Police and Elbląg – as well as diagonally across the country – from Przemyśl to Świnoujście. He also completed 14 parachute jumps, piloted gliders, and held a marine yacht skipper certificate.
He was awarded Poland’s Knight’s Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta in 2015, then the Medal of the Centenary of Regained Independence three years later.
According to fellow travellers, during Monday’s climb to the summit of Kilimanjaro he said he was in good form, and not showing any symptoms of altitude sickness. He would shout “wild Africa!” to those passing him, reports Polsat News. Doba is suspected to have died from a heart attack, but the cause of death has not yet been confirmed.
Some of his final social media posts from earlier this month show him ice swimming – a trend known as “morsowanie” (walrusing) that has become increasingly popular in Poland this winter – in Głębokie Lake near the northwestern city of Szczecin.
Lest we forget, consumed by the cares of the world, we can be an inspiration to others, no matter what our age….
“And I think now, that in life you should take advantage of everything you have and do the best you can. You have only one life.”
An adventurist who died at the top of a tall, famous mountain. How poetic. What more could he possibly have asked for?
And don’t let that top photo remind you of Michael Palin of Monty Python.
Christians who are explorers and world travelers like Doba unfortunately feel a need to bring the Gospel to the beast nations for whom it was never intended. White people are natural explorers, but they also have a desire to uplift those beast nations they encounter. It’s a Catch-22.
“23 Are they servants of Christ?—I am speaking as if insane—I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. 24 Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent adrift at sea. 26 I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the nations, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers at sea, dangers among false brothers; 27 I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28 Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak without my being weak? Who is led into sin without my intense concern?” (2 Corinthians 11)
“6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; 8 in the future there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.” (2 Timothy 4)
Paul, the original adventurer and inspiration, gave his life to drink the cup of the Lord.
Certainly we don’t know if Doba was a servant to Christ, but Christians can apply his adventuresome spirit to their own pursuits, have high goals and pursue them in their works….
Right, and I think that’s the parable of the mustard seed essentially.
“31 He presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a person took and sowed in his field; 32 and this is smaller than all the other seeds, but when it is fully grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the sky come and nest in its branches.””
If we, being mustard seeds, can aspire to that high goal of a tree, the Lord says that we will reach it, because a mustard seed cannot be anything else. If only the mustard seed will not have considered itself to be fully grown before its time, then it can continue to grow. Such who imagine themselves to have finished growing fall into the trap Paul mentioned in 2 Corinthians 10:12, “For we do not presume to rank or compare ourselves with some of those who commend themselves; but when they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they have no understanding.”
Just like the unrighteous manager in Luke 16, Doba shames the children of light, because he gave his life to a worldly pursuit, and he aspired for what had never been done. If only we could all be like Doba, but aspire for the Kingdom instead. How much more can we do than Doba, when the Lord said, “7 Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” (Matthew 7)
However, “The one who is faithful in a very little thing is also faithful in much; and the one who is unrighteous in a very little thing is also unrighteous in much.” (Luke 16:10)
Doba built up to his greater feats, being faithful in his own way with little, not expecting that he would be able to attain it instantly. So should we also be faithful in little, that we may be entrusted to more.