Night Swimming On A Wolf Moon

Night Swimming On A Wolf Moon

The first full moon in January – tonight in the year 2022 – has often been referred to as the Wolf Moon for centuries. Its origin comes from Native Americans who often heard wolves howling during cold winter nights at this time of year, according to the Farmer’s Almanac. Wolves howl to communicate with each other over long distances.

95 years ago, 17-year-old Canadian George Young was the sole finisher of the Wrigley Ocean Marathon, the first event and attempt of a solo swim across the Catalina Channel on January 16th 1927. He finished in 15 hours 44 minutes, winning the US$25,000 first prize offered by William Wrigley, Jr. under a Waxing Gibbous moon (nearly a full moon).

Note 1: waxing means that the moon is getting bigger.

Note 2: $25,000 in 1927 is worth approximately $400,578 today.

Note 3: The average water temperature around Catalina Island in January is 58.5°F (14.7°F).

Note 4: The start was at 11:21 a.m. on January 15th – which meant that Young finished at 3:05 am in the moonlight at Point Vicente where an estimated crowd of 15,000 spectators had gathered on the cliffs and shorelines since midnight to welcome him.

Note 5: Swimmers were accompanied by support boats with an official observer aboard. Two steamships stayed nearby (Avalon and Cabrillo) that had been converted into hospital ships with medical staff. Speedboats were on standby to serve as ambulances.

Note 6: Of the 102 swimmers who entered the water, Margaret Hauser and Martha Stager were still in the water before sunrise around 6:30 am. In addition to the first prize of $25,000, Wrigley was offering $15,000 (worth $225,000 now) to the first woman to finish if she did not finish first. After being in the Catalina Channel for 19 hours 26 minutes, they both decided to retire and be taken into their support boats. Hauser had a mile to go and Stager was more than a half mile further out. Wrigley awarded the women $2,500 (worth more than $36,000) each.

Swimmers and support boats near Catalina Island at the beginning of the Wrigley Ocean Marathon.
Photo from Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive at UCLA Library.
Wrigley Ocean Marathon winner, George Young, after coming ashore at Point Vicente in the early morning hours.
Photo from Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive at UCLA Library.

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Steven Munatones