Go to Homepage   Lynne Cox: Swimming to Antarctica (Tales of a Long-Distance Swimmer)

 

Crescent Blues Book ViewsKnopf (Hardcover), ISBN: 0-375-41507-6

Imagine swimming with porpoises and penguins, in frigid water and roiling waves, among icebergs and ice packs. Imagine swimming across the English Channel, Straits of Magellan and Bering Sea.

Imagine swimming to Antarctica.

Book: lynne cox, swimming to antartica
Lynne Cox recounts these adventures in Swimming to Antarctica: Tales of a Long-Distance Swimmer. Wearing only a swimsuit, cap and goggles, Cox braved water temperatures as low as 32 degrees to follow her love of long-distance, open-water swimming.

Normally, after seven to eight minutes in water colder than 40 degrees, an individual's muscular nerves stop firing. The body cannot move. Cold water also causes hypothermia -- quick loss of body heat leading to cardiac failure. Two physical attributes enabled Cox to withstand icy water. Her body fat ratio equaled that of her muscle mass, making Cox naturally buoyant and a more efficient swimmer. Her speed generated enough core body heat to prevent her brain and vital organs from shutting down.

A friend's mother launched Cox's long-distance career by telling the13-year-old, "Someday, Lynne, you're going to swim across the English Channel."

This challenge obsessed Cox, who, at 14, swam 26 miles from Catalina Island to the California coast. At 15, Cox swam the English Channel and broke the men's and women's times. Cox returned at 17, breaking the Channel records again. Cox subsequently swam in waters rarely or never swum before.

Cox's vivid descriptions immerse the reader in her swims. "The waves looked molten." "The water was searingly cold, pervasive, and it stung." The world during a night swim "was in stark contrast, reduced to luminous blacks, brilliant whites, and tonal grays." "A dozen tuxedoed dolphins began dancing on their tails across the bright blue sea."

The dolphins appeared during the swim across Cook Strait, New Zealand, just after Cox, facing eight-foot waves and high winds, decided to quit. Their antics quelled Cox's doubt and she resumed swimming. Later, when Cox neared the finish, the dolphins escorted her. As Cox turned toward one bay, "the dolphins began chattering excitedly, moving erratically." Cox realized that the dolphins led her to another bay because "there was a current to the left, one I didn't have the energy to cross."

Extensive preparations preceded each swim. Cox and her team studied tides, currents, weather and time of day, planning the swim around all these variables. Cox trained constantly, many times for a year before the swim.

Cox even swam the Bearing Sea on August 7, 1987, to alleviate political tensions between the United States and the then Soviet Union. Swimming for two hours in thirty-eight degree water, Cox crossed the American-Russian border. She won worldwide renown.

The lack of photographs and maps of Cox's swims disappoints. Nevertheless, Cox conveys the spirit, fun and mystical experiences of her swimming career.

Lynn I. Miller

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