2017 English Channel swim

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Marine life encounters

 I've been asked on several occasions about my marine life encounters during my 18 year open water swim career. What started off as a fear of the unknown (always wondering if a predator was lurking below me), turned into one of the most enjoyable experiences of my lifetime.  I've had dolphins swim around me in the Catalina Channel, inquisitive sea lions and seals nearby.  I've heard the sounds of whales echoing in the distance while swimming the Strait of Gibraltar and the Pacific Ocean. And moments before the start of my Catalina swim at midnight, my crew and I heard a whale spouting water through its blowhole nearby.  I've had several small curious fish touch my fingertips while swimming Tsugaru Strait in Japan. My encounters with jellyfish has been unique...I was intrigued by swimming among the shoals of Lion's Mane Jellyfish in my 21 mile swim across the North Channel between Ireland and Scotland....I saw thousands and got stung every inch of my body.  I found the stings were minor and well worth the experience of seeing these creatures with their long flowing tentacles.  I was fortunate that I was not affected by severe pain and toxic reactions that many marathon swimmers have experienced.  During my first English Channel swim attempt, I was startled by a long slender toothless fish when it grabbed hold of my forearm during my hand entry in the water off the coast of France and didn't release until my arm recovery out of the water. No injury to fish or myself. My boat captain thought it was a sucker fish. It looked similar to an eel. I continued with my swim. Also, while swimming along the coast of the Atlantic ocean, I had a shark encounter. I immediately stopped my swim due to safety concerns.  But as I watched this majestic creature pass within 15 feet of me. I noticed that it was not interested in me. And this very large predator continued to swim quickly away from me. It never returned.  During my training season here in Maine, I have seen lobsters, crabs, blue fish, mackerel and sand sharks.....each time I was in awe to see them in their environment. I am looking forward to many more years of marine life encounters....no longer in fear of the unknown.