Karen Rogers, Next Up For The Farallones

Karen Rogers, Next Up For The Farallones

Karen Rogers is next up for the 30-mile solo swim from the Farallones Island to Aquatic Park in San Francisco Bay in early July.

The Night Train Swimmers gave it all they had in the 50°F (10°C) water, but they were forced out due to hypothermia. The video of their swim is here.

From this the coldest, windiest, bleakest, nastiest spot in the American Pacific as described an open water swimmer, on a starry night under calm conditions in August 1967, 41-year-old Lieutenant Colonel Stuart Evans jumped off his lead escort boat in 13.3°C (56°F) water at 10:17 pm and starting swimming to the California shoreline 32K (20 miles) away.

The September 8, 1967 issue of Time Magazine noted Stuart’s swim in a colorful description, “…he smeared himself with great gobs of a ‘secret’ cold-protective grease and stroked off – straight into a school of jellyfish. For two hours, his left arm was nearly useless with excruciating pain, but he somehow kept going until the pain subsided, after a total of 13 hours, 44 minutes and 52 seconds…

According to a first-person account by Dr. Fred Howard, the physician aboard Stuart’s escort boat who occasionally jumped in the water as a pace swimmer, the ‘secret’ protective coating as actual marine bearing grease mixed with graphite and shark repellent that was applied over a light coating of wintergreen oil (see photo above).

Stuart and his crew had meticulously planned the unprecedented swim. The Water Queen was the lead escort boat, setting the course, while the Crissy Flier and the Edgewater cruised along nearby with additional pilots, pacers, support crew and a U.S. Coast Guard observer. Stuart swam between two rowboats, each with two men.

Besides the cold water, Stuart swam through numerous giant jellyfish while a sea lion and a porpoise came alongside him. As Stewart was nearing land, a 16-foot shark briefly swam nearby the Crissy Flier, but it harmlessly swam off.

Because of a change in tides as he approached the California mainland, the original plan to land on Stintson Beach was shelved and Stewart ended up finishing at Point Bolinas. After struggling to find a gap in the rocky shoreline and fighting large swells, Stewart jogged up the beach to stake a claim in the annals of open water swimming history with a final time of 13 hours and 46 minutes.

The venerable Ted Erikson was the second – and only other – person to successfuly swim from the Farallones to the California mainland in 14 hours and 38 minutes in September 1967 after two previous attempts where sharks, cold water, engine failures, adverse tides, confusion, and hypothermia contributed to failure.

It is a difficult swim that has eluded many:

1. Leonore Modell, a 17-year-old who swam the English Channel at the age 14 and 66 miles in California’s Lake Natoma, swam for 16.5 hours, only to retire 5 miles short of the California coast.
2. Ike Papke, a 41-year-old Catalina Channel swimmer, made it to l.12 miles within the California coast.
3. Touric Bleik, a 38-year-old Lebanese who once swam the English Channel twice in the same week, was pulled after 6 hours.
4. Paul Herron, an English Channel swimmer, lasted 6 hours.
5. Jose Cortinas, a Strait of Gibraltar swimmer, swam 6 miles before leg cramps forced him to quit.
6. Myra Thompson, a Juan de Fuca Strait swimmer, was pulled after 18 hours, covering only 0.5 mile over the last 4 hours.
7. Night Train Swimmers stopped due to hypothermia.

Stuart’s photo was provided by Bruckner Chase and Michelle Evans-Chase of the Ocean City Swim Club.

Copyright © 2010 by Steven Munatones
Steven Munatones