Jason Zirganos' Circumnavigation Clarified

Jason Zirganos’ Circumnavigation Clarified

Jason Zirganos was reportedly the first person to complete the Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming (successful crossings of the English Channel and Catalina Channel and circumnavigation of Manhattan Island).

But NYC Swim uncovered 1958 media reports that indicate Zirganos never completed his initial circumnavigation around Manhattan Island although this attempt was reported a success in Greek publications.

The Greek swimmer first swam across the English Channel in 1949. In 1950, he swam the English Channel again, beating his 1949 time by more than two hours (16 hours 19 minutes) in the Daily Mail International Cross English Channel Race. Then again in 1951, he completed the same crossing in 14 hours 1 minute and completed his fourth English Channel crossing in 1954 in 16 hours 23 minutes.

In addition to his four English Channel crossings, he swam across Windermere in England four times, across the Bosphorus, and down the Nile River as well as the Catalina Channel in 1957 in 17 hours flat.

On October 5th 1958, the 48-year-old retired major of the Greek Army was pulled cold and incoherent from exhaustion from the Hudson River after a valiant 22 hour 45 minute circumnavigation attempt around Manhattan Island sponsored by the American Hellenic Education Progressive Association.

According to a New York Times article, Zirganos started at 6:50 pm at Battery Park, swam up the East River and got out in the Hudson River after swimming 25 of the 28.5 miles. Zirganos told supporter Gertrude Ederle in the hospital that he would attempt again. However, that second attempt never happened as he died the following year as he attempted to swim across the North Channel from Orlock Head, Co. Down, Ireland to Portpatrick, Scotland when he lost consciousness and died despite the efforts of a doctor who cut him open with a penknife to massage his heart.

Photo of Jason Zirganos after Manhattan Island circumnavigation attempt here.

Information courtesy of NYC Swim.

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Steven Munatones