Seán O’Connell Tells The Story Of Shark Bait

Seán O’Connell Tells The Story Of Shark Bait

Courtesy of Seán O’Connell, Hamilton, Bermuda.

Former Bermuda College mathematics professor Dr. Seán O’Connell has written a book about his unprecedented two-day circumnatation around Bermuda in 1976.

The 116-page autobiographical account details the then-33-year-old’s months of preparation, a failed attempt, and his grueling 43 hour 27 minute 38-mile circumnavigation swim that raised $11,000 for charity.

Published by Brimstone Media, Shark Bait: How I Battled Tides, Fins and Fatigue to Complete the First Non-stop Swim Around Bermuda reveals how the math lecturer was set in motion by a $1,000 bet proposed by a friend at a local pub. “It only happened because of a happy-hour boast that turned into a serious proposition — and it changed my life forever,” says O’Connell, now 75, who moved to the island in 1974 and spent 29 years teaching at Bermuda College.

Born in Brooklyn, New York to a family of Irish heritage, O’Connell, now Bermudian, trained to become a Jesuit priest after high school until he chose teaching as a career. “My upbringing as the son of a high-ranking New York City police officer, plus the years of discipline practised in the religious order, prepared me well.”

O’Connell’s seven months of training in the ocean around Bermuda in 1976 saw him battle weight loss, vomiting and psychological challenges as well as endure strong tides and close encounters with barracuda, sharks, jellyfish, even a freighter. “Through it, I learned the necessities of marathon swimming and how to fuel my body with high-energy supplements and protect against hours in salt water by coating myself with thick grease and wearing a face mask.”

A team of volunteers and vessels was organized to support him through two attempts, including the second, successful clockwise swim around the island on August 21–23 in a time of 43 hours 27 minutes. O’Connell donated $11,000 raised by his swim to the Bermuda Physically Handicapped Association and was later profiled in Sports Illustrated and noted in the Guinness Book of Records.

The book includes contemporary photographs and newspaper clippings, looks at other round-the-island attempts after his achievement including the most recent by American Lori King who succeeded in breaking his record in 2016, the 40th anniversary of his swim, just as he finished writing his narrative.

Shark Bait is currently on sale at The Bookmart for $19.95. All proceeds go to the Bermuda Physically Handicapped Association, the charity that originally benefitted from his swim.

Shark Bait is available for overseas readers by contacting Martin Buckley at or calling +441-279-5443 between 9 am and 5 pm AST. The price is $19.95 and shipping quotes are available on request.

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Steven Munatones