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Travel Writing, Adventure & Guides
Publication Date
25 July 2019
Paperback (also available as an ebook)
Available for Sale
Birlinn Ltd

Rowing After the White Whale

A Crossing of the Indian Ocean by Hand


eBook also available from the iBookstore

‘A challenge like few others – one that requires total commitment and perseverance in the face of Mother Nature often at her most terrifying. I have huge respect for this brave duo. They knew that the blisters and pain wouldn’t last forever! An epic achievement' – Bear Grylls

‘Funny and terrifying’ – Hattie Morahan, The Independent

‘A rousing tale of an adventure that most of us could scarcely dream about’ – The Canberra Times

‘An heroic journey’ – The Daily Mail

‘a most readable account of real adventure by brave men’ – John Blashford-Snell

‘This is a truly splendid book, reminiscent, in its celebration of the triumph of cheerful resolve over incompetence, of Eric Newby’s A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush. It is a book without artifice of any kind, very funny and with the ring of many appalling truths’ – Sam Llewellyn

‘an excellent read: spirited and funny but also thoughtful, touching and well written’ – Stephen Taylor

‘This is an outstanding book brilliantly written and I very highly recommend it’ – Shipping Magazine

‘Always do sober what you said you’d do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut’ – Ernest Hemingway
What’s it like to be on a small boat with no power but oars, while 1,500 miles from the nearest land? Two friends decided to find out. . .

 Over a boozy Sunday lunch, flatmates James Adair and Ben Stenning made a promise to row across an ocean despite having no sailing or rowing experience whatsoever. This is the account of their 116 days at sea as they undertook the voyage of a lifetime. From eerie calms to their capsize in stormy seas, their determination and perseverance pushed them through the relentless dangers of rowing and sleeping under sun, moon, wind and stars for day upon day. Their tale is one of moonbows and meteor showers, passing whales and thieving fish, lurking sharks and giant squid; it is part adventure narrative, part blue water history, part meditation on nature and part memoir.
Taking inspiration from Herman Melville’s classic Moby Dick, this hilarious and heart-warming book tells the story of two friends who decided to do something no one thought they could.

You can watch a trailer for the documentary, And Then We Swam, about this incredible Indian Ocean adventure:


James Adair read Modern History at the University of St Andrews. He worked for two years as the editor of the Alderney Journal, perhaps the world’s smallest paid-for newspaper, wrote a column in the Guernsey Press and wrote freelance articles for The Times’ Books and News sections. To finance his dream of rowing an ocean he took a job as a shipbroker with HSBC in London. In the aftermath of his and Ben’s incredible journey, he has returned to shipbrokerage and is currently based in Barcelona.