Ross Edgley, a British adventurer who has pulled off some impressive, if questionable feats, like running an entire marathon while dragging a car on a tow rope and swimming massive lengths of the Caribbean Sea weighed down by a 100-pound hunk of wood, stepped into the Atlantic near the town of Kent, England, last June 1 and began swimming. He finally came ashore on Sunday, again at Kent’s Margate Harbor, five months later, after swimming 1,780 miles. In so doing, Edgley became the first person to swim around the entirety of Great Britain.
Once he began his swim Edgley never touched the shore, resting only on the deck of a support boat that closely monitored his progress and his health as he took on 12-hour days of constant swimming. His health was in question numerous times, as you’d imagine.
Edgley suffered dozens of jellyfish stings. One of which came in the form of a large jelly sticking itself to his face for half an hour while Edgley struggled against fierce currents off the coast of Scotland. He suspects he tore a shoulder ligament at one point. Despite running through more than three kilograms of petroleum jelly, Edgley still had uncontrollable chafing that resulting in terrible sores, even after he’d finished the swim.
Plus, his tongue nearly rotted out of his mouth. The constant influx of saltwater essentially began to break down the muscle of his tongue, and large chunks of it started falling off days after he finished the swim.
Before suffering the loss of some tastebuds, however, Edgley had become a sommelier of seawater.
“Scotland tasted really nice,” he told the Guardian. “The Irish Sea was ‘organic.'” The Humber Estuary [outside of Hull, England] tasted like, “straight-up fertilizer.”
Edgley ate between 10,000-15,000 calories per day to fuel his adventure, including 659 bananas, or one roughly every 20 minutes he was in the water. He’d ravenously mow down pizza, pudding, tons of pasta, and hundreds of cans of Red Bull.
Unlike many long-distance swimmers, Edgley wore a wetsuit, including a neoprene hood and gloves. Still, his body was ripped open by blisters and gaping sores that never healed in the salt water; they just eroded the flesh further and further, to the point that his bedsheets would stick to his constellation of sores at night.
There were good moments too. Countless dolphins joined Edgley on his swim. He had beautiful moments of meditation and stillness, where he calmly and unthinkingly stroked through glassy seas. A minke whale befriended Edgley at one point, cruising alongside the man for five miles. Edgley thinks the whale mistook him for a seal.
“For all the jellyfish stings and the hardship, you get a moment like that which you’ll only ever get if you spend 12 hours swimming in the sea every day for 157 days,” he said. “It was amazing. But [the whale] didn’t end up coming to Margate—I hope she writes to me.”
Now, Edgley must regain lower body strength again before he attempts the next grand feat of endurance. He gained a good deal of fat before and during the journey, and his body resculpted itself, packing on muscle in his shoulders and chest, robbing power from his feet and legs. Edgley reports too he grew even hairier during the swim.
Perhaps that minke whale wasn’t so mistaken after all.
Photo: Jeff Holmes/Red Bull Content Pool