A Slice Of Open Water History

A Slice Of Open Water History

Captain Tim Johnson, an inductee in the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame and author of the History of Open Water Marathon Swimming, brings us a slice of swimming history about one of the early pioneers of the sport:

In 1904, 17-year-old Australian Annette Kellerman, enjoyed success in her early part of her career, setting record marks for 100 yards and one mile. Her family held a conference after she set the mile mark and charted a course for Annette to become a professional swimmer. She went to England where they sought a larger audience.

At the urging of her father Fred Kellerman, she swam 15 miles down the Thames from Putney Bridge to Blackwall. Her exploit brought her to the attention of Lord Northcliff, the owner of the Daily Mail newspaper. In exchange for an exclusive, Lord Northcliff arranged for her to swim the English Channel in a race with six male swimmers. Thousands viewed the start. She outlasted the six men, but Channel outlasted her on three separate attempts.

Known as the Aqua Queen from her early days in Australia when she was the mermaid at the Melbourne Aquarium, she was invited to swim for the Prince of Wales. By the time she was 21, she was recognized as the greatest woman distance swimmer in the world as she popularized the one-piece bathing suit (see above that led to her arrest). She toured the United States and appeared in two movies, the silent film era’s Ester Williams.

Eventually, the lives of these two stars crossed in real life when Ester Williams starred in the 1951 film Million Dollar Mermaid about Annette’s life story.

Copyright © 2010 by Steven Munatones