One of World's Most Interesting Men Is Dead

John Fairfax, 74, had a resume that almost defies belief

By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff

Posted Feb 20, 2012 10:48 AM CST

(Newser) – He may not be the Dos Equis man, but John Fairfax arguably has the most interesting obituary in the world. The New York Times' piece on Fairfax, who died Feb. 8 from a heart attack at the age of 74, begins by reminding us of Fairfax's most famous feats: rowing across the Atlantic solo in 1969 armed with Spam, oatmeal, and brandy—a six-month journey that earned him a world record—traversing the Pacific as well, over the course of a year with his then-girlfriend in 1972. On that crossing, his arm was bitten by a shark. But his wild adventures started much earlier.

To settle an argument when he was nine, he grabbed his Italian scoutmaster's pistol and opened fire on the campsite (no one was hurt). After moving to Buenos Aires with his Bulgarian mother (who had divorced his English father), he ran away and lived as a trapper in the Amazon jungle. As a heartbroken 20-year-old, he attempted suicide-by-jaguar. Jaguar. But he changed his mind, and his gun got the best of the creature. He also studied under a pirate for three years, managed a mink farm, and spent time as a professional gambler, playing baccarat. Click to read about more of his adventures.

In this Jan. 3, 1969, file photo, John Fairfax stands beside his 22-foot rowing boat, Britannia, at King George V Dock in London, prior to sailing to the Canary Islands.   (AP Photo/Peter Kemp, File)
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