Frank Chambers Opened The Door

Frank Chambers Opened The Door

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

Back in 2009, Meekrat Films produced a 55-minute documentary on Frank Chalmers‘s attempt at crossing the Pentland Firth, an 8-mile stretch of water between the northern Scottish mainland the the Orkney Islands. The Firth was successfully swum by Colleen Blair two years later.

But the documentary – called Crossing Hell’s Mouth – was broadcast on BBC2, telling the story of Chamber’s 3 hour 50 minute attempt across some of the strongest tides in the world in a place known as Hell’s Mouth.

Despite its reputation of being a graveyard of ships due to its location where the Atlantic Ocean meets the North Sea, Chambers, a 16:48 English Channel swimmer in 2005 and a member of Ye Amphibious Ancients Bathing Association, tried to swim across monumental tidal currents and freezing water.

Chambers admitted to Marc Deanie of the Scottish Sun that his attempt was really just a practice swim. “I was on a training swim for about half-an-hour, so I wasn’t fully prepared. I hadn’t done the things I would do on the proper swim, like preparing energy drinks and Vaseline for my skin. Once I was going for an hour, though, the support crew told me I was going all the way.”

Besides the cold tidal water, Chambers described dark, big things swimming underwater beneath him. “I got a shock – I was swimming in the middle of the Pentland Firth and I saw this black shadow just under the water and thought, ‘That’s odd’. I saw it again two minutes later and I thought it was a killer whale. Then a whole load of them started swimming underneath – they were giant seals. That was a distraction. But it was a bit of a relief too because the fishermen in Orkney told me before that there were killer whales there.”

Chamber’s attempt, cut short by about a mile when his escort boat had no lights and darkness was fast approaching, opens the door to others, including the courageous Blair.

I didn’t land at the other side [so] it opened it up for other swimmers to take on the challenge.”

Copyright © 2014 by World Open Water Swimming Association
Steven Munatones