Diana Nyad Close to Launch
"I'm warming up and getting ready to make the swim soon!" is the message Diana Nyad posted on Twitter late this afternoon. So it could be that the 61-year-old open-water distance swimmer, featured in this recent SecondAct article, actually is about to embark on her historic attempt to swim 103 miles from Cuba to Florida, finally accomplishing a feat that she first attempted almost 33 years ago.
It all depends on the weather. That was Nyad's undoing back in August of 1978, when she and her flotilla of support staff, victimized by the imprecision of weather forecasts, were blown off course by a strong northeasterly wind. As this 1978 St. Petersburg Times account details, her navigator reluctantly urged her to climb out of the water after 41 hours because she was still 85 to 90 miles away from Key West and caught in rough waters that essentially acted as an aquatic treadmill. Nyad didn't want to quit, even though she was covered with jellyfish stings, had a badly inflamed mouth from salt-water exposure and an infection around her eyes, and according to her trainer, had expended an amount of energy equivalent to swimming for nearly three days straight in calm waters.
This time, Nyad, not surprisingly, and her team are being extra careful. As this NPR story notes, Nyad needs the waters in the Florida straits to be as warm as possible, optimally in the high 80s F, so that she can avoid hypothermia while swimming without a wetsuit for the approximately 60 hours that it will take to reach Key West. Additionally, in contrast to the rough waves and current that she battled in 1978, she's looking for a moment when the waters are as close as possible to a dead calm, conditions that are known in nautical jargon as "the doldrums."
BTW, if you're interested in monitoring conditions along the way with Nyad's team, check out the National Weather Service's forecasts from its Key West office, or a marine weather website such as Sea-Seek.com and Buoyweather.com, which offer fairly detailed information (except, unfortunately, for water temperature).
July 20 update: Nyad writes, "The water temps have arrived!" Read her latest post here.
July 26 update: Diana Nyad By The Numbers
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