Alexander Frater

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Alexander Russell Frater (born Port Vila, New Hebrides, 3 January 1937) is a British-Australian travel writer and journalist.[1]

Alexander Frater
BornAlexander Russell Frater
March 1 or January 3, 1937 (age 80)
Port Vila, New Hebrides
OccupationWriter and journalist
NationalityBritish and Australian[2]
EducationScotch College, Melbourne
Alma materUniversity of Melbourne
Notable awardsNumerous, listed below left
SpouseMarlis (d. 2011)

Early life[edit]

Frater was born in a small mission hospital in Port Vila in the middle of a monsoon.[3] His father, a doctor, would later teach him how to observe and analyse weather.[4] In 1946 the family moved to Suva, Fiji, where Frater Sr. became Professor at the Central Medical School.[5]

After primary school Frater was sent to Scotch College in Melbourne, and then attended the University of Melbourne as an undergraduate. He married Marlis in 1962 after moving to the UK to pursue a career as a journalist, with further study at Durham University and the University of Perugia. From 1960-1962 Frater competed for Durham University Boat Club.[6] He has 2 children.[7] Frater lives in London but frequently travels.[8]


Once in England Frater began submitting pieces to Punch and was eventually offered a staff job.[9] He later became a contracted writer for The New Yorker and then chief travel correspondent for The Observer newspaper.[10] In between these jobs Frater spent one year as a staff writer for The Daily Telegraph from 1966-1967.[11]

During his time writing for The New Yorker he produced a number of stories about an idyllic, imaginary Pacific island he called Tofua. Later he was informed by a fact-checker that such an island really existed in Tonga, which went on to form the basis for his book, Tales from the Torrid.[12] While working at The Observer he was twice commended in the British Press Awards, and in 1990 won Travel Writer of the Year.[13]

Frater took a short break from journalism to write Beyond the Blue Horizon (1984). He attempted to recreate the journey made in the Imperial Airways 'Eastbound Empire' service - the world's longest and most adventurous scheduled air route.[14] Chasing the Monsoon (1990) sees Frater follow the Monsoon in India. As a child his curiosity about India, and particularly its monsoon season, was sparked by his father - who often told stories about the country.[15]

His latest book to date, published in 2008, is The Balloon Factory. It focuses on the pioneers of aviation based at The Balloon Factory in Farnborough.[16]


Frater made several television documentaries, but admits in Tales from the Torrid Zone that his career in front of a camera was destined to be short lived.

A BBC and ABC Discovery Series documentary recreating Africa's flying boat journeys from Cairo to Mozambique was filmed in difficult conditions in 1989 aboard a Catalina flying boat. The programme aired in 1990 entitled The Last African Flying boat[17][18]

Monsoon (BBC), about India's monsoonal rainfall event, aired in 1991.

In the Footsteps of Buddha (BBC), 1993.


  • Frater, A.R. 2008. The Balloon Factory: The Story Of The Men Who Built Britain's First Flying Machines. Picador.
  • Frater, A.R. 2004. Tales from the Torrid Zone. Vintage Books/Picador.
  • Frater, A.R. 1990. Chasing the Monsoon: a Modern Pilgrimage Through India. Picador.
  • Frater, A.R. 1986. Beyond the Blue Horizon: On the track of Imperial Airways. Heinemann.
  • Frater, A.R. (ed.) 1984. Great Rivers Of The World. Hodder & Stoughton.
  • Frater, A.R. 1983 Stopping-Train Britain. Hodder & Stoughton.


  • BAFTA Award for Best Single Documentary (The Last African Flying Boat)
  • British Press Travel Award commendations – 1982 and 1989
  • British Press Award Travel Writer of the Year – 1990, 1991 and 1992
  • Best Radio Feature Travelex Travel Writers' Awards – 2000
  • Overall winner Travelex Travel Writers' Awards – 2000
  • Shortlisted Thomas Cook Travel Book of the Year Award, for Monsoon (Br Book Award, McVitie's Prize)


  1. ^ "Alexander Frater". Penguin Random House. Retrieved 16 September 2018.
  2. ^ Although born to British parents, Frater also holds an Australian passport as shown in The Last African Flying Boat on YouTube
  3. ^ Datta, Sudipta (30 July 2018). "Under the grey skies". The Hindu. Retrieved 16 September 2018.
  4. ^ Datta, Sudipta (30 July 2018). "Under the grey skies". The Hindu. Retrieved 16 September 2018.
  5. ^ Frater, Alexander (2011). Tales from the Torrid Zone: Travels in the Deep Tropics. London: Pan Macmillan. ISBN 9780330542081.
  6. ^ Moyes, Arthur (2007). Be The Best You Can Be: A History of Sport at Hatfield College, Durham University. Hatfield Trust. p. 80.
  7. ^ "Frater, Alexander 1937 -". Encyclopedia. Retrieved 16 September 2018.
  8. ^ "Alexander Frater". InkWell Management Literary Agency. Retrieved 16 September 2018.
  9. ^ Frater, Alexander (2011). Tales from the Torrid Zone: Travels in the Deep Tropics. London: Pan Macmillan. p. 83. ISBN 9780330542081.
  10. ^ Frater, Alexander (2005). Chasing the Monsoon: A Modern Pilgrimage Through India. London: Pan Macmillan. ISBN 9780330433136.
  11. ^ "Frater, Alexander 1937 -". Encyclopedia. Retrieved 16 September 2018.
  12. ^ Benfey, Christopher. "Tales From the Torrid Zone - Alexander Frater". New York Times. Retrieved 16 September 2018.
  13. ^ "Frater, Alexander 1937 -". Encyclopedia. Retrieved 16 September 2018.
  14. ^ "Beyond The Blue Horizon". Pan Macmillan. Retrieved 16 September 2018.
  15. ^ Advani, Rukun. "Book review: Alexender Frater's 'Chasing The Monsoon'". India Today. Retrieved 16 September 2018.
  16. ^ MacLean, Rory (20 July 2008). "The Balloon Factory: The Story of the Men Who Built Britain's First Flying Machines by Alexander Frater". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 16 September 2018.
  17. ^ "The Flying Boat Forum from • View topic - Trans African Catalina Trip". Retrieved 2018-09-07.
  18. ^ Crook, John (11 July 1993). "'Last Flying Boat' takes risky trip across Africa". The Observer. Retrieved 16 September 2018.