The Incredible Career Of Mercedes Gleitze

The Incredible Career Of Mercedes Gleitze

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

Given the era, circumstances, and global expanse of her swims, there has been arguably no greater aquatic adventurer than Mercedes Gleitze. From Ireland and Spain to South Africa and Australia, she went often went swimming where no man (or woman) went before her.

Without jet transportation, GPS, or others to pave the way before her in many of her swims, Gleitze set forth to do many unprecedented swims that had to be mind-bogggling at the time, both physically and logistically.

Like Tesla in technology and Edison in electricity, Gleitze was well ahead of her time and visionary in her exploits and attempts in all kinds of conditions and venues from the British Isles to Down Under.

At the 2014 Global Open Water Swimming Conference between September 19th and 21st at the Mount Stuart House on the Isle of Bute in Scotland, Gleitze will be one of the individuals honored by the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame, an honor that was also previously granted upon her by the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame.

Her storied career included the following marathon swims, channel swims, stage swims, and endurance pool swims:

1923
The Thames: British Ladies’ Record for Thames Swimming over the 27-mile stretch between Putney and Silvertown in 10¾ hours

1927
July 18-29th – The Thames: Westminster Bridge to Folkestone (120 miles in stages)
October 7th – English Channel (France to England)

1928
April 6th – Strait of Gibraltar (Spain to Africa)

1929
June 21st – The Wash
July 12th – Lough Neagh (breadthways)
July 13th – Loch Ryan
July 28th – Firth of Forth
August 17th – Lough Foyle (Moville to Portstewart)
August 20th – Lough Foyle (Portstewart to Moville)
September 8th – Lough Neagh (lengthways)

1930
June 13-18th – Around the Isle of Man (120 miles in stages)
August 6th – The Hellespont (Dardanelles) – Europe to Asia Minor
August 22nd – The Hellespont (Dardanelles) – Asia Minor to Europe
September 3rd – Sea of Marmara
December 25th – Wellington Harbour, New Zealand

1931
January 21st – Rangitoto Island to Cheltenham, New Zealand
January 24th – Won Manly Swimming/Floating Competition (48 hours) in Sydney, Australia
August 5th – Galway Bay, Eire, Ireland

1932
March 25th – Cape Town to Robben Island, South Africa
March 27th – Robben Island to Cape Town, South Africa

Set distances in the following South African rivers:
April 10th – Swartkops River, Cape of Good Hope
April 17th – Buffalo River, East London
April 23rd – Modder River, Glen, Bloemfontein
May 8th – Germiston Lake, Joannesburg
May 15th – Hartebeestpoort Dam, Pretoria
May 22nd – Vaal River, Vereeniging
Open water swims attempted, but not completed:

1928
June to November – 4 attempts of the North Channel
17 September – 14-hour endurance sea swim, Blackpool (target was 25 hours)

1929
August to September – 4 attempts of the North Channel

1930
June 2nd – Moray Firth
June 30th – Bristol Channel
September 30th – English Channel – Dover Town Gold Cup (England to France)

1933
August 2nd – English Channel (England to France)

Endurance swims carried out in British pools, except where indicated:

* 26 hours in Edinburgh on December 31st 1929 to January 1st 1930 at Infirmary Street Baths
* 28 hours in Dublin, Eire on February 9-10th 1930 at Tara Street Baths
* 30 hours in Cork, Eire on February 25-26th 1930 at Eglinton Street Baths
* 31 hours in Liverpool on March 7-8th 1930 at Westminster Road Baths
* 32 hours in Derby on March 28-29th 1930 at Reginald Street Baths
* 33 hours in Huddersfield on April 4-5th 1930 at Ramsden Street Baths
* 34 hours in Belfast on April 21-22nd 1930 at Ormeau Baths
* 35 hours in Leicester on May 19-20th 1930 at Belgrave Baths, Cossington Street
* 36 hours in Sheffield on 23-24 May 1930 at Glossop Street Baths
* 37 hours in Douglas on 9-10 June 1930 at Henry Bloom Noble Baths
* 38 hours in Stafford on 3-4 July 1930 at Royal Baths
* 39 hours in Wolverhampton on 18-19 July 1930 at Municipal Baths
* 40 hours in Leicester on 12-13 September 1930 at Belgrave Baths, Cossington Street
* 40½ hours in Dundee on 24-25 September 1930 at Central Baths
* 41 hours in Hull on 9-10 October 1930 at Madeley Street Baths
* 41½ hours in Newcastle on 24-25 October 1930 at Northumberland Baths
* 42 hours in Dublin, Eire on 3-4 November 1930 at Tara Street Baths
* 42½ hours in Wellington, New Zealand on 31 Dec 1930/1 Jan 1931 at Boys Institute Baths, Tasman Street
* 43 hours in Auckland, New Zealand on 16-17 January 1931 at Auckland Tepid Baths
* 43½ hours in Christchurch, New Zealand on 12-13 March 1931 at Manchester Street Tepid Baths
* 44 hours in Adelaide, Australia on 10-11 April 1931 at Crystal Swimming Pool, Unley
* 44½ hours in Melbourne, Australia on 17-18 April 1931 at Brunswick Baths
* 45 hours in Rotherham on 31 Dec 1931 – 1 Jan 1932 at Main Street Baths
* 45½ hours in Chesterfield on 15-16 January 1932 at Central School Baths
* 46 hours in Cape Town, South Africa on 18-19 March 1932 at Long Street Baths
* 46½ hours in Huddersfield on 31 Dec 1932-1 Jan 1933 at Cambridge Road Baths
* 47 hours in Worthing on 18-20 May 1933 at Corporation Baths

Photo of and swimming information on Mercedes Gleitze provided by her daughter Doloranda Pember.

Copyright © 2014 by World Open Water Swimming Association