Last week, Icelandic swimmer, Benedikt Hjartarson, was forced to abandon his attempt to cross the English Channel without any support. After being in the water for nearly 15 hours, strong currents near the coast of France caused him to give up.
Hjartarson spoke about the experience to the Icelandic newspaper Morgunbladid; “It’s terribly sad not to have made it through. It is so difficult that I didn’t stand a chance,” he said. “We were delayed by half an hour this morning [Tuesday] because the captain was late. If we’d begun at the right time this probably would have worked out.”
Hjartarson did not give up without a fight but he did encounter many difficulties during his long swim. Tangles of seaweed forced him to detour from his original route and although he attempted to avoid the large schools of jellyfish in his path, he did incur minor burns on his face from the creatures.
Hjartarson threw in the towel only a few nautical miles from his goal, in an area known to many swimmers as “the graveyard of dreams” because of its strong currents.
The graveyard claimed not only Hjartarson, but another Icelandic swimmer who went before him in 1958. Like Hjartarson, Eyjólfur Jónsson also encountered strong currents and did not finish his swim across the channel.
The first successful swim across the channel was recorded in 1875 when Captain Matthew Webb swam for 21 hours and 45 minutes unassisted from England to France. At the end of 2005, a total of 811 individuals had crossed the channel.
Unfortunately for Iceland, Hjartarson will not yet be joining that number just yet. He swam last week in the memory of his recently departed 8-year-old niece, Emma Katrín Gísladóttir.