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British man first to row non-stop from North America to Australia

British adventurer John Beeden has become the first person to row solo and non-stop from North America to mainland Australia, arriving on December 27. He previously rowed across the Atlantic in 2011.

The 53-year-old embarked on his journey from San Francisco on June 1 in his six-meter (20-foot) boat named Socks II, and landing in Cairns, Australia, on December 27. During the 7,400-nautical-mile journey he averaged 15 hours rowing for 209 days.

"To be the first person to achieve something like this on this scale is incredible really, and I haven't processed it yet," Beeden told Australian national broadcaster ABC.

His wife Cheryl and two teenage daughters greeted him at the dock in Cairns when he pulled in escorted by a string of local vessels.

Pacific 'much harder' than Atlantic

Beeden missed his planned date of arrival by about a month because of weather conditions slowing him down. He repeatedly tweeted that the journey was proving far more difficult than he had thought.

A seasoned rower, Beeden had already rowed 2,600 nautical miles across the Atlantic Ocean solo in 53 days in 2011, but said that the Pacific was much harder to tackle.

Along his way, Beeden was met by a series of support boats as he passed islands and was given supplies. After seven months on his own at sea Beeden said he found it "strange" to be back among people and noise. For some of his time out on the Pacific, the nearest human beings were the crew of the space station 250 kilometers (150 miles) above him.

"It's strange, but it's good to be back, but it was kind of good to be out there as well," Beeden said.

Rower lost at sea during previous attempt in 1996

In 1983, British rower Peter Bird almost made the solo row from San Francisco to Australia, but was rescued near the Barrier Reef just 33 miles from the mainland by the Australian navy, after 294 days at sea.

Bird made several more attempts but was lost at sea in 1996.

ss/bk (dpa)