By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
ULTRA-marathon Australian swimmer Chloe McCardel carved her name into the history books early yesterday by swimming almost 80 miles unassisted from the southern tip of Eleuthera to New Providence – but spent the day in hospital as a result of severe jellyfish stings.
Ms McCardel painfully completed the longest open-water solo, unassisted marathon swim in world history, but not before enduring a dozen box jellyfish stings and dehydration, which has put her in the care of nurses at the Princess Margaret Hospital.
Ms McCardel, 29, made landfall in eastern New Providence at 12.55am yesterday, completing 41 hours and 21 minutes of non-stop swimming through shark and jellyfish infested Bahamian waters.
When she finally felt sand between her toes, Ms McCardel, after having been repeatedly stung by jellyfish on both legs, her back, face and her mouth, and physically exhausted from her journey, staggered out of the water.
Once completely out of the water, marking the official end of her journey, she took 15 wobbly steps before her husband, Paul McQueeney, the man in charge of the record attempt, had to catch her from falling from exhaustion.
The left side of her face and her mouth were considerably swollen, a testament to the potency of the jellyfish stings. The skin directly under her eyes were noticeably raw, likely due to the friction of her goggles constantly rubbing against her face in the salt water.
Mr McQueeney said the feat was “the guttiest thing” he’d ever seen. “I know she will take some time to recover from this massive achievement, which she has spent her entire swimming career preparing for,” he said. “She is elated at successfully setting this record in this way, and is a very, very proud Australian.”
Ms McCardel began her historic swim at 7:34am on Monday from the Lighthouse Beach in south Eleuthera, amidst farewells from supportive students from the nearby Island School.
Along with two boats and two kayaks, all containing an Island School support team, members of her personal convoy – including Mr McQueeney and an Australian media team, Ms McCardel set off in her attempt at world history.
About halfway into her swim, however, officials said Ms McCardel experienced a “bout” with jellyfish. Mr McQueeney told The Tribune that she had been stung at least 10 to 12 times over her body. He said she also faced the risk of hypothermia.
On Tuesday night officials said while nearing New Providence, Ms McCardel hit a receding tide, making progress towards the island very difficult.
According to Ron Knight, the Island School’s Logistics Officer, after battling the ebb tide for four hours, the team made a decision to direct Ms McCardel in a different direction.
“Literally in four hours she went less than a kilometer,” he said. “We kept checking our GPS and we just weren’t going anywhere. We knew that the tide would be coming back at us really hard so we headed towards East Point and we angled into East Point to a spot that was under two kilometers short of where she would have originally come out (Montagu Beach).”
She was greeted by a group of enthusiastic and supportive locals and local media and was subsequently escorted by her husband and support crew for a medical check-up and well deserved sleep.
At the end of her historic swim, Ms McCardel logged a total of 126km - or 78 miles - and not the 128km her team had planned. However, the 78 miles was sufficient to secure her spot in history, or so it seems.
Although she physically completed the swim, however, the Marathon Swimmers Federation (MSF) will have to review McCardel’s swim before it can be ratified as a world record.
MSF officials yesterday said that due to the difficulty of comparing marathon swims because of varying currents and other factors – including the fact that some previous efforts were not well documented – Ms McCardel’s feat is debatable.
According to MSF co-founder Evan Morrison, the longest non-stop, solo open-water swims have been in rivers and benefited from significant assistance from currents, so the comparison to ocean swims cannot be made.
The longest previous non-stop solo non-current-assisted swim is believed to be by Zhang Jian, who claimed to have swum 76.5 miles (123km) in Bohai Bay, China. However Mr Morrison questioned the validity of Jian’s claims due to poor documentation.
Additionally, the Guinness Book of World Records lists Veljko Rogosic as holder of the record for the longest ocean swim, a 140-mile (225km) journey through the Adriatic in 2006. Mr Morrison said that too was poorly documented, and said it was likely aided by strong, predictable Adriatic currents, nullifying the comparison.
He said a panel will review the documentation from Ms McCardel’s swim and decide whether it should be ratified as a record.
Ms McCardel was in the trauma section of the Princess Margaret Hospital, but officials said she was expected to make a full recovery. She is expected to remain in the Bahamas until she is comfortable enough to travel. She is expected to head back to Australia early next month.