If Sylvia Earle Is An Aquanaut, What Are Open Water Swimmers?

If Sylvia Earle Is An Aquanaut, What Are Open Water Swimmers?

Dr. Sylvia Earle is the former Chief Scientist of US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, as well as the founder of Sylvia Earle Alliance, Mission Blue, and Deep Ocean Exploration and Research.

Dr. Earle has been called Her Deepness by the New York Times and named a Living Legend by the Library of Congress and the first Hero for the Planet by Time magazine.

She has lectured in more than 80 countries, led more than 100 expeditions, including the first team of women aquanauts, and logged nearly 7,000 hours underwater with a record solo dive to 1,000 meters and nine saturation dives.

If she is one of the world’s most esteemed aquanauts, then what are the open water swimmers called who spend cumulatively thousands of hours swimming at both their local swimming venues and traveling around the world? Surfacenauts? Waternauts? Nautinauts? Marinauts?

Just as Dr. Earle has witnessed and documented the degradation of the world’s coral reefs, water clarity and overall health of the world’s oceans (see TED talk below), swimmers like Michael Miller and Linda Kaiser of Honolulu, Hawaii have been swimming nearly daily off the coast of Oahu.

Swimmers and administrators like Peter Bales in South Africa and Shelley Taylor-Smith in Perth have been swimming in locations for decades. Sally Minty-Gravett in Jersey has swum the English Channel over the course of 4 decades and Kevin Murphy in the English Channel has been doing crossings since 1968. In the Pacific Ocean, John York has been doing Catalina Channel crossings as a swimmer and observer since 1976 and Dr. Gary Claydon has been doing the Rottnest Channel Swim between 1996 and 2012. While swimmers like Vojislav Mijic has been swimming in his native Serbia since the early 1970’s.

These swimmers have undoubtedly seen changes in the swimming locations they frequent daily, weekly, monthly and yearly. Like Dr. Earle who documents the changes, it would be grand and enlightening to learn about the changes – both positive and negative – that these swimmers have seen in their local marine environment.

In our case, we have been swimming in Huntington Beach (Surf City U.S.A.) in Southern California since 1968. We recall many more instances of the seashore covered with large, slightly purple-colored jellyfish throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s. Now the shores of Huntington Beach are very rarely covered in jellyfish and we have not recalled a beach closing due to a jellyfish invasion in years. Additionally, there are more sightings of playful dolphins cruising just outside the surf line on a daily basis, occasionally acting as swim buddies for local open water swimmers. Nowadays, there fortunately is less tar bubbling up from the surface defacing the wet sand near the shoreline. So while tar occasionally coated the bottom of your heels during the 1970’s and 1980’s, the sand is much cleaner in the 21st century although it still less than pristine. So all in all there seems to be at least a superficial improvement in the quality of Huntington Beach’s shoreline environment from the perspective of an open water swimmer over the last 4 decades.

What are your experiences and observations?

Email your comments and observations of your own local swimming venue that you have experienced over the decades to Open Water Source.

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