Los Angeles - John Fairfax, a self-proclaimed "professional adventurer" who became famous in 1969 as the first person to row solo across the Atlantic Ocean, has died near Las Vegas at the age of 74.
Fairfax was born in Italy to a British father and a Bulgarian mother, grew up in Argentina, and led a colourful life that included stretches as a big-game hunter and even a cigarette smuggler.
"It is with great sadness that we announce the death of John Fairfax," Ocean Rowing Society International, for which Fairfax served on the steering committee, said in a notice posted on its website.
The group said he died at his home on February 8, while US media said that the cause of death was an apparent heart attack.
Ocean Rowing Society International wrote that Fairfax spent six months "alone on the Atlantic battling storms, sharks and encroaching madness" during his heroic feat, before doing it all again across the Pacific.
He made both ocean crossings, the group wrote, "because the lure of sea, spray and sinew, and the history-making chance to traverse two oceans without steam or sail, proved irresistible."
All alone and with grit and sheer force of will, he powered his 22-foot (6.7m) rowboat "Britannia" from Gran Canaria to Hollywood Beach, Florida.
A couple of years later, he rowed across the Pacific with his then-girlfriend Sylvia Cook, an ocean crossing that took him a full year to complete, from April 1971 to April 1972.
Both journeys created a media frenzy and made Fairfax world-famous, inspiring two memoirs: "Britannia: Rowing Alone Across the Atlantic" and, with Cook, "Oars Across the Pacific," both published in the early 1970s.
In its tribute to the noted oarsman, Ocean Rowing Society International wrote: "When Fairfax was asked what he did for a living, he would usually answer, 'I'm a professional adventurer. I not only enjoy it, I try to make money off it'."
Fairfax is survived by his wife Tiffany, a professional astrologer.