Woman Rows Into Record Book

It's people like Tori Murden that have the power to make us marvel at the human spirit, CBS News Correspondent Elizabeth Kaledin reports.

On Friday, 36-year-old Murden became the first American -- and the first woman -- to row across the Atlantic Ocean.

"I've thought about this moment so many times," Murden said after she'd rowed up to a dock in the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe.

Her journey began on September 13, departing from The Canary Islands in her specially designed boat, The American Pearl. With only her arms and legs to propel her, she traveled about 3,000 miles over 81 days before reaching land early this morning.

It was her second attempt, after being derailed by hurricane Danielle last year. A detailed online journal captured introspective moments. "The universe is in charge of this one," she wrote, "and I am a pale puny speck in the middle of the ocean."

She also recorded times of anxiety, such as her encounter with Hurricane Lenny. She wrote that the waves which capsized the boat "were shaped like shark's teeth and they did have a bite." She persevered despite days when, thanks to the storm, she actually went backward as much as 10 miles.

Students in her hometown of Louisville, Ky. followed her course every step of the way, inspired by her determination.

"The most important thing is that you do your best and you always manage to finish it," one girl explains.

Her former High School music teacher, Dorothy Gilsdorf, is not surprised she stuck it out. "It's something she wanted to do and she's going to do what she decided to do," she says.

In fact, rowing the Atlantic is only one of her many accomplishments. An attorney with a master's degree from the Harvard Divinity School, Murden has dedicated her life to working with the poor, the homeless and the disabled.

Murden is also a member of the Sector No Limits Team, elite athletes dedicated to testing the outer limits of endurance. She was the first woman and first American to ski to the geographic South Pole.

Her voyage across the sea, some who know her say, was just her way of getting familiar with real hardship. Responding to why she did it, one journal entry read: "When I reach the end of life, I want to look back and know that I asked enough of myself."