Beth French Swimming Through The Vog

Beth French started on the island of Molokai at 9:30 pm last night with her sights on crossing the 42km Molokai Channel.

Through the night, she hung closely to her escort boat, captained by Matt Buckman. But the expected brilliance of the tropical Hawaiian sun at sunrise never appeared.

All there was is a eerie vog.

It is so voggy that Captain Buckman cannot see Oahu in the morning. She was 10.5 miles from Sandy Beach on Oahu at 7 am swimming in a sea of zero whitecaps, but a building southerly wind [to 13 mph]. As she gets closer to Oahu, she is expected to hit a mean tide drop that will make headway significantly difficult. But her crew expect her to land around 1 pm local time if all continues to go well.

Sharks, jellyfish, tides, whales currents and winds are occasionally faced in channel crossings, but vog is a rare occurrence.

The vog is very, very bad,” says Linda Kaiser from Oahu. “There has been no wind or south winds for a number of days. [Here on Oahu], the downtown high rises and Waianae mountains are simply not there [visible].”

Vog or volcanic air pollution affects breathing and can cause itchy eyes for those caught in its mist. Fortunately, the Kona winds are blowing French to Oahu through the vog. But as channel swimmers know in Hawaii, just when and where she will land is always a surprise.

But the English Channel swimmer from Britain was greeted in a supremely enjoyable way on her boat ride over to Molokai last night from Oahu. “There were whales doing the slap dance all around the boat,” describes Kaiser. “I am sure she is hearing their songs as she swims…in the vog.”

Update at 12 noon local time: French is 5.5 miles off Oahu moving at 1 knot per hour against the elements. Copyright © 2012 by World Open Water Swimming Association
Steven Munatones