Nicolas Knap Honors The History of Grosse-Île While Swimming To Shore

Nicolas Knap Honors The History of Grosse-Île While Swimming To Shore

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

Nicolas Knap will attempt an unprecedented 11 km crossing from la Grosse-Île to the south shore of the St. Lawrence River in Québec, Canada.

Back in 19th century, individuals were locked down on the island in the St. Lawrence River due to pandemics.  

Grosse-Île long served as a quarantine location for the port of Québec, starting in 1832.  It was the primary immigration point for immigrants to Canada until the mid-1910’s.  More than 7,000 people are buried on Grosse-Île; most of whom were victims of the typhus epidemic of 1847.

Québec had 27,000 residents in 1831.  The Grosse-Île quarantine station helped protect the area from the onslaught of diseases by temporarily isolating inbound passengers and sick immigrants.

Later, approximately 95,000 immigrants came from Ireland due to the Great Famine beginning in 1845.  For 105 years, the island served as a quarantine.  For more in-depth history, visit here.

Knap’s swim is a tribute to the people who served and are buried on this historic island.

Swim Escape in preparation

A new adventure for Nicolas Knap, the water marathoner

Quebec City, July 26, 2021 – A veteran of open water swimming, Nicolas Knap is preparing his escape from Île de la quarantaine to Berthier-sur-Mer on Saturday, July 31. This crossing will be homologated and made official by the International Marathon Swimmers Federation.

The plan

Nicolas Knap will leave from the Grosse Île dock area at 8:30 a.m. on July 31, 2021 and will swim to the Berthier-sur-Mer harbour approximately 2 hours later, if all weather and sea conditions are ideal and if the swimmer manages to maintain the desired pace. The swimmer will embark from the Berthier-sur-Mer marina about 2 hours before. He will be accompanied by the team that he was able to assemble in a short time.

A difficult escape

In order to reach the south shore of the St. Lawrence River, Nicolas Knap will have to swim a distance of about 11 km. His position in the water will be transverse to the direction of the current. He will have to maintain a constant speed and, above all, he will have to fight against the natural downstream current of the river as well as the rising tide coming from the ocean. At this location, the winds, waves and currents can be very powerful (between 3.7 and 5.56 km per hour), which can further complicate the adventure. This is not the first time this experienced swimmer has crossed the river, but he will still have to be extra vigilant. In addition to the natural elements of the river, Nicolas Knap will have to deal with the cruise ships sailing towards Grosse Île, the commercial ships calling at the port of Quebec and the curious boaters. He expects to meet the first cruise passengers on his route between 9 and 10 am.


For approximately 11 km, fans will be able to follow Nicolas Knap’s escape live for about two hours on their smartphone, on the W ater Marathoner’s website or on social media using Globalstar satellite technology. He will use the SPOT X satellite GPS (a two-way satellite messaging device that will be on his boat) as well as the system (a customizable GPS tracking system for endurance sports, on land or at sea). A link will be available a few days before his departure.

International recognition and homologation

This crossing will be homologated and officialized by the Marathon Swimmers Federation and will have to respect a protocol specific to traditional open water swimming. The swimmer must wear only a bathing suit (any equipment to improve speed, flotation, endurance and heat regulation is forbidden), a single swim cap, a pair of goggles, a nose clip, ear plugs and must apply grease. The swimmer must also stay about 3 m away from his escort boat and from another swimmer except when refueling. The swimmer is not allowed to grab, hold on to or intentionally make contact with any boat, object or personal support during the entire crossing. Further details are available on the Nicolas Knap website.

A wider issue

With this audacious project, the marathon swimmer also wishes to denounce the difficulties of access to water bodies despite their multitude in Quebec. In reality, whether for a swimmer or a non-motorized boat, it has become almost impossible to enter a lake and practice one’s favorite activity, whether for pleasure or for training. Access is becoming increasingly limited. Municipalities are imposing increasing fees for access to lakes located on their territory. Training, swimming, and open water swimming is becoming an almost “illegal and increasingly expensive2” activity, even more expensive than swimming in a pool, even though the water law stipulates that water is a “common heritage of the Quebec nation”.

Our neighbors in Ontario, the United States, Europe and elsewhere in the world have adopted laws that promote access to water. Some European countries even allow people to cross private land (with the responsibility of not breaking, damaging or polluting anything) to access a body of water.

“I find it more and more difficult to access a lake and I don’t find it normal. I want to feel free and swim the distance I want to or it’s not open water anymore. I don’t necessarily want to pay an entrance fee just to have the right to walk on grass or sand without any other services when the lake is free and belongs to everyone. I hope that the current government will put a priority on the lake file and improve access to water bodies and rivers in order to protect the water and also to allow the greatest number of people to protect this priceless resource. I would like to see in the future urban swim, harbor basins developed in addition to the lakes and rivers. There are many things to do,” says Nicolas Knap.

“I think that movements such as Accès aux Berges, Fondation Rivières, Société des gens de baignade à Québec inform us and make us aware of this issue that concerns us all,” continues the open water swimmer.

Easy access to water also allows people to discover beautiful places, to democratize swimming and also to accentuate our efforts on “knowing how to swim” in order to avoid all these drownings which are still too numerous each year. If adults as well as children really knew how to swim, that is to say in great depths and without floating equipment, maybe these tragic events would not occur.

A busy career

Nicolas Knap’s record is well filled. He has been an international medalist on several occasions. In August 2020, he is the first swimmer in history to swim from Saint-Joseph-de-la-Rive to Île-aux-Coudres. In June 2019, he became the first Quebec swimmer to swim across the Strait of Gibraltar. He set the Canadian record at the same time. In June 2017, he swam his way out of the famous Alcatraz prison island and won the event in the process. Nicolas Knap has also swum distances of 25, 40, and 88 km in his career and he also practices cold water swimming. This adept of surpassing himself does not intend to stop there…

For more information on Knap in French, visit here.

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