TODAY   |  April 13, 2014

‘I yearn for land’: How a trip across the Atlantic went horribly wrong

A four-person crew was on a rowboat mission from Africa to North America, which had never before been attempted. The trip ended with frantic families and a dramatic rescue. Dateline’s Keith Morrison reports.

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>>> four rowers were ready for the experience of a lifetime when they set off on a transat transatlantic mission never attempted before. the trip did not go the way they planned and ended with a dramatic rescue. this morning for the first time we're seeing video recovered from the ocean. keith morrison of "dateline" has more.

>> reporter: the crew of the tiny 29-foot row boat , the james robert hansen , has been fighting the elements for weeks on end. there were storms. broken oars. power problems. all seemed to be conspireing against the four rowers.

>> it's adam calling from the ocean.

>> reporter: and in these recovered videos, it's clear that along the way from africa to north america , the journey was proving tougher than any of them imagined. olympic gold medalist adam kreek was missing his pregnant wife and young son.

>> i yearned for land more than i thought i would out here.

>> reporter: then one day, back home in british columbia , his wife rebecca received a happy surprise on her computer.

>> it's this awesome video that adam was able to send near the end of him talking to jefferson . saying hi, jefferson , it's daddy. what did you do today? then pause. then jefferson would watch it over and over and over and answer him. he'd be like, i went to day care .

>> i was wondering, have you been to the park recently?

>> yeah.

>> have you been playing with your lego and tinker toys ? spending lots of time outside?

>> reporter: a father and son interacting with each other. separated by days of lag time . and thousands of miles.

>> i love you to here and back. love you lots. i'm going to give you a big squeeze when i see you in miami. then we're going to go see the elephants a t the miami zoo .

>> yeah.

>> love you a ton.

>> reporter: in the early morning hours of april 6th , 2013 , day 73 in the expedition, land based coordinator greg spooner got a call from the san juan , puerto rico , coast guard station. officials had received signals from three emergency beacons . about 350 miles off the puerto rican coast.

>> i'm just standing here trying to figure out what's going on and why only three beacons have gone off. where's the fourth?

>> reporter: back home families were frantic awaiting word of their loved ones' fate. then in an amazing maritime rescue played out over ten hours with two different airplanes, the u.s. coast guard saved the day. and four lives.

>> we were really lucky. there is no fairness with sea. it doesn't have to give back anything. but we tried. in this case, it did.

>> reporter: keith morrison , nbc news, los angeles .

>> wow. see more of this story tonight on "dateline" at