Lonely Planet Writer

British adventurer successfully completes solo Pacific trip

British adventurer John Beeden became the first person to row solo across the Pacific Ocean nonstop after making landfall in Cairns, Queensland on Boxing Day.

Beautiful Cairns under threat to become casino mecca
British adventurer landed in Cairns after months at sea. Image by Sarah Stewart / CC BY-SA 2.0

The 53-year-old athlete set out from San Francisco on 1 June, taking 209 days to row the 7400 nautical miles to Cairns. Upon completing the mammoth undertaking he tweeted: “Arrived at 10am local time. Happy to be on land have some ginger nuts.” Mr Beeden, who was met in Cairns by his wife and two daughters, had hoped to make landfall in mid-November, but was delayed for over a month due to difficult weather conditions and strong currents.

No stranger to endurance challenges, three years ago Mr Beeden successfully rowed across the Atlantic in just 53 days. But the Pacific crossing proved more difficult than he anticipated. “[I had thought] it was going to hard work just like the Atlantic — it wasn’t going to try and kill me — but [the Pacific] tried a few times,” he told Australia’s ABC.

Throughout his journey Mr Beeden took to Twitter to update followers on his progress. Though conditions were tough and Mr Beeden encountered numerous setbacks, his sense of humour remained in tact: “Oct 6: Put some underwear on the other day & despite the elastic waist, if I could standup they would have fallen down. #HowToGetSkinny #Rowing”. Resupplies were a common topic, with the supply of ginger nut biscuits closely monitored: “Nov 22: Resupply went well, ginger nuts safely transfered.”

While many would find the isolation of a solo row across the Pacific stifling, Mr Beeden said it had been “an incredible privilege to be kind of on your own for thousands of miles”. Though Mr Beeden is the first person to successfully cross the Pacific Ocean from continent to continent, the honours almost went to Peter Bird, who attempted the crossing in 1983. Devastatingly, he didn’t make landfall, requiring rescue by the Australian Navy just 1.5km from the Great Barrier Reef, after spending 294 days at sea.