Sunday, December 2, 2012

Swimming to Antarctica by Lynne Cox

I can't for the life of me remember where I heard about this book, but I apparently put it on hold at the library as soon as I heard about it. When the email came that it was in, I was a little confused. But I gamely went and got it and started reading.

Side note: people really shouldn't wait so long past the library due date to bring books back. It confuses the next people in line who forgot they requested it.

Lynne Cox was born in 1957 and has been swimming pretty much all her life. She discovered when she was younger that she loved swimming "in the wild" when she was swimming in an outdoor pool during a storm. One of the parents of another student was amazed she was out there and proclaimed that Lynne would swim the English Channel someday. That idea stuck.

Fast forward a bit, but not too much, and Lynne is swimming the English Channel and breaking world age 15. What did YOU do at age 15?

Not content with just that, Lynne moved on to other projects, each more challenging than the next. She paired up with some research doctors in college to help them understand cold water swimming and its affects.

Lynne's big goal was to swim the Bering Strait, from Alaska to Russia. This was during the time of Reagan and the Cold War and she needed permission from both sides in order to swim. Lynne saw this as a way to bring countries together and it did, amazingly enough. The Soviets agreed, after 11 years of trying, and Lynne did the swim in frigid waters (around 40 degrees F).

Another side note: reading this book made me cold. Cox swam around icebergs, in water so cold it was partially frozen. I was perpetually covered up with a blanket throughout this book.

As the title of the book implies, Lynne did a swim in Antarctica where the water temperature was around 32 degrees. There was no particular reason for this swim, except that it hadn't been done before.  She swam 1.2 miles in 25 minutes.

Her crew always contains doctors in case there are problems. With the last swim in the arctic, I had issues with what she described. She mentioned that she didn't know at the time that water that cold could kill nerve endings. She listed several things she didn't know "at that time". All the doctors that surrounded her, went with her, and wanted to help one mentioned this? Apparently it took quite some time for the feeling to get back to her extremities due to the nerve damage.

I'm not a swimmer, I just somewhat flail in the water, but this was an interesting read. Well written and engaging enough, that it was a pretty quick read as well.

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