The First Woman To Row Across An Ocean

Sylvia Cook tells the story of how she rowed across the Pacific with adventurer John Fairfax in 1971: surviving shark attacks, a cyclone, a broken rudder and being washed up on a coral reef.

  • Producer: Barney Rowntree

Sylvia Cook is a British adventurer who became the first woman to row across an ocean. Alongside John Fairfax, she started the journey across the Pacific from San Francisco on 26 April 1971 in a specially designed tandem row boat called Britannia II, eventually making land in Australia just four days shy of a year at sea.

The half-English, half-Bulgarian Fairfax had come to Britain in 1967 with just £300 in his pocket, to raise money for the first solo crossing of the Atlantic by an oarsman. To find a sponsor, he placed a newspaper advertisement. “I’d never even been out of England,” Cook recalls, “So I replied, saying I’ve no money, but can I help?”

In this podcast, Cook recalls the duo encountering all manner of disasters on their journey: surviving shark attacks, a cyclone, a broken rudder and being washed up on a coral reef.

Articles

Further Reading

Under the Sea

A breathtaking new restaurant combines stylishly sustainable seafood dining with apocalyptic architectural ambition.

Where Are All The Female Grandmasters?

Girls play chess better than boys at primary school, so why do so few make it to the top? A look at how challenges facing female players have changed from the medieval era to the twenty-first century.

Microsculpture

A technique combining 8,000 images per picture. Photographer Levon Biss reveals insects as never seen before.

The Ink Created From Polluted Air

'Pollution is nothing but the resources that we are not harvesting yet' claims the man behind the concept – one of the few innovators whose ultimate hope is that his invention will become obsolete.

Up Close: Street Boxing in Ghana

No glitz, no glamour; just pain and passion. Street fighting in Bukom, Ghana – a small, poor fishing village renowned for its remarkable ability to produce world champion boxers.

The White Limestone Workers of Minya

Egyptian photographer Nader Saadallah documents the eerie beauty of one of the most dangerous occupations in the world.
Browse by Category