Fairfax and Sylvia Cook in Las Palmas,
Gran Canaria on January 19th 1969, before
the start of John's
solo row across the Atlantic
the first ever solo row of an ocean.
Fairfax and Sylvia Cook were swept over the Great Barrier
Reef and rowed into the shelter of Hayman Island off the Queensland
coast, they had achieved what to most people seemed an impossibility -
crossing the world's largest ocean by strength of their own arms. It had
taken them a year minus four days, with brief
halts at Ensenada in Mexico, Washington Island, and the tiny island of
Onotoa. Since Cyclone Emily some weeks before their arrival they had
been given up for lost, and their triumphant landing brought acclaim
from the whole world.
In 1973 there appeared the first American edition of their book 'Oars
Across the Pacific'.
This book is their joint record, based on the separate logs they each
kept, of their preparations for the voyage, and of what then happened
when they left San Francisco on April 26, 1971, in Britannia II,
designed by Uffa Fox.
It tells of the dangers they faced, of hurricanes and the calms,
exhausting heat and tropical downpours; reeves and coastal rocks of
islands at ocean - shipwreck and the compelled stop on one of them to
repair the boat and again to leave for nowhere; sea snakes and battle
with sharks... Without a water desalinator (the stock of fresh water had
to be re-supplied on islands they came across on their way), without
solar batteries (huge and incredibly heavy primitive batteries have
added superfluous kilos to boat's weight), without GPS (only with a
compass and a sextant), let alone satellite phone and e-mail; - without
a thing that is an integral part of all modern adventures, - they have
covered more than 8.000 miles by rowing and have triumphally finished
the crossing in Australia.
And thanks to Sylvia, this crossing has come to the end safely - it was
for her, on John's recognition, that he is obliged for his life. When it
remained hardly more than a month to go to Australia, a tragic meeting
with a shark had put John's life on the edge of death: with a wounded
shoulder (he was severly bitten by the shark), he was dragged into the
boat by Sylvia, who "sewed him up" and then rowed the rest of the way
Sylvia became the first woman to row an ocean and holds a well-deserved
title 'The First Lady of Oceanrowing'.
"Somebody had to be the first to prove, that it could be done. When
it is done - the door is open...", said Peter Bird (the first
non-stop solo crossing of the Pacific Ocean).
In the last 50 years since Mt.Everest was first climbed there have been
1672 persons who reached the summit.
In 107 years of the History of Ocean Rowing there have been only 100
successful rows across the oceans, completed by less than 170 rowers. 11
names in this list belong to women, and only two of them - Sylvia Cook
and Kathleen Saville , - have rowed the Pacific Ocean.