Nuala Moore On Swimming Around Cape Horn

Courtesy of Nuala Moore, Cape Horn, Chile.

In April 2018, Nuala Moore completed a 1.7 km swim over 28 minutes from the southern tip of Cape Horn Island, the southernmost headland of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago of southern Chile.

Cape Horn marks the northern boundary of the Drake Passage and marks where the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans meet.

Moore recalls the swim, “My greatest fear was that they would lose sight of me. I often think strength is the ability to let go of the [escort] Zodiac and was one of the few times that I cried in a swim was starting this one.”

She explained how she found herself in a part of the world so far south and so distant from her native Ireland. “For me, my love of the extreme is what I grew up with: storms and watching my father coming home from fishing and loving the respect for the huge conditions.

I always feel trapped in confined spaces like pools. As a child, we were just thrown off the boat on a Sunday in the harbor and would swim back to shore when we were 7-10 years old.

During the Round Ireland Swim, we were so challenged with huge seas on many days. One particular day, we struggled with the swim and really wanted to get into the water. Our command boat skipper Brendan came over the VHF and said, ‘It’s not that you can’t swim, it’s that we can’t get you safely from the water if we need to. Stand down, we don’t risk a bad swim.’

We stood down and went home. That same day, Anne Marie Ward got separated from the boat with a rogue wave. It was a surreal moment of reality.

My father would always describe big seas as frustrated, confused, and lumpy. But he would always say, ‘A storm can’t hit you on four sides. There is always a way through the sea. Face the storm, take the waves head on, and ensure that nothing comes to your stern.’

The clip above shows the reality of the swim across the southern tip of Cape Horn. The lighthouse keeper on Cape Horn who has the final say refused consent to allow my Zodiac and my safety crew (including two dive medics from the UK, Catherine Buckland and Chris Booker) to come into the water with me because of the conditions. One casualty was enough (me). It was surreal.

I knew the biggest challenge would be losing sight of me. I had enormous trust that we had put everything in place for the speed to get me out if necessary. It was a tough swim at 7°C in these conditions including facing a sun for visibility.

For me, extreme was what I grew up with, mostly, a trust in preparations and myself.

It was so iconic and so beautiful to be breathing up and looking at [the headlands]. You can see the challenge in seeing me. The conditions made it difficult to come any closer and it was my own choice to take on the swim without the in-water rescue cover. I had a choice [but] the alternative was to swim inside the bays in calmer waters and that was not what I wanted. So I trusted my team and I was delighted

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Steven Munatones