Diana Nyad Hits the Water
The world is watching as 61-year-old Diana Nyad glides through the waters of the Florida straits, in an effort to complete the epic 103-mile swim from Havana to Key West that she first attempted in 1978.
HerTwitter account, which is being updated by her staffers, reports that as of 9 a.m. Eastern time, she already had completed 20 miles of the swim, which is expected to take 60 hours. If you want to follow Nyad's progress on a map, CNN.com is offering this real-time position tracker.
CNN, which has a reporter following along in the boats that are accompanying Nyad, reports in a Tweet this morning that she has been swimming strongly, despite a sore shoulder.Australian distance swimmer Susie Maroney made the first verified swim from Cuba to Florida in 1997, but she was 22 at the time and swam inside a special shark cage. Nyad would be the first to make the swim without such a cage and also the oldest verified swimmer to complete the trip.
Nyad walked up to the waterline in Havana at about 7:45 p.m. Sunday, kissed the Marina Hemingway commodore on the cheek and then changed into a black swimsuit and blue swim cap, according to this Associated Press dispatch. Nyad also displayed the special goggles that she is wearing during the swim. During the night, she'll wear light blue goggles for better night vision and in the daytime will switch to smoky charcoal to protect her eyes from the tropical sun. After an assistant greased her shoulders and arms to protect against chafing in the salt water, Nyad played "Reveille," the traditional military wake-up song, on a bugle. She then thanked several dozen boosters who had showed up to cheer her on.
"Thirty-three years ago, I stood on a beach close by here and looked out on a giant sea," she said. "...Now, I'm almost 62 years old, and I'm standing here in the prime of my life. I think this is my day."
Nyad, who grew up in south Florida, told Reuters that she hopes her swim will contribute in some small way to improving relations between the U.S. and Cuba. Numerous Cuban refugees attempting to reach the U.S.have died in the straits where Nyad is swimming.
This CNN story details the extensive effort that will support Nyad on her swim. Nyad is being accompanied by a navigator, who will ensure that she is swimming in the right direction and guide her away from ocean currents that might slow her progress, as they did in 1978, when she was pushed badly off course and had to quit nearly 42 hours in her swim.
In addition, six ocean kayakers will take turns paddling beside her as she swims. The kayakers are towing electronic Shark Shields, which emit an electronic signal intended to repel the predators. Additionally, divers are following along to assist her if she needs additional protection. The environmentally-minded swimmer assured shark lovers that no lethal weapons will be used against them. A doctor also is following Nyad to treat her for bites or stings from jellyfish and other creatures, and to keep watch over her hydration levels and nutrition. Nyad stops every hour for a few minutes to drink and eat a small meal, which is necessary because she will be burning many thousands of calories on her swim. CNN reported that a typical meal may include hard-boiled eggs, protein gel or peanut butter, and a few ounces of an electrolyte beverage.
To pass the time, Nyad sings to herself on long swims. On this trip, the song most likely will be "Guantanamera," she told Reuters."It's the only song in Spanish that I know." she explained.
NBC's Today show aired an interview with Nyad this morning and here's a CNN video of her departure. Here is our recent post,"Diana Nyad By the Numbers." Here also is a link to Nyad's website, though the site appeared to have crashed this morning from the flood of visitors following her progress.
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