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THE CHANNEL SWIM., Poverty Bay Herald, Volume XXXVIII, Issue 12581, 11 October 1911
THE CHANNEL SWIM.
AFTER FIFTEEN KAI LUKES
A GRAPHIC STOIIY
LONDON, September 8. On his 16th venture, Thomas -William Burgess, a Yorkshireman, residing m Paris, has conquered the English :Channel. Since Captain ■ Webb swam from Dover to' Calais m 1875, there have been 8P attempts to ; accomplish the passage. Lately aii epidemic of Channel-swimming has broken iout, attempts being made by most of the long- distance men m England. On two occasions Jabez Wolfe got within a mile of iihe shore, 1 ' before being compelled to stop. But, by Channel' pilots, Burgess has for years been regarded as' the most likely man. An excellent impression was made my Miss Annette Kellerman's attempts a couple of years ago. A Dover pilot, who ;had accompanied many Channel aspirants, said, "Any fool knows that of all Channel swimmers .only Burgess has an earthly chance of getting there. I have seen all the best of them, good, bad, and indifferent, including Holbein, Wolfe, and Heatoii; but Burgess's most dangerous rival was Miss Kellerman, until she decided to abandon . further effort." Twice this pilot watched Miss Kellerman, and his opinion is still that upon both occasions she could have remained m the water hours longer than she was permitted. Burgess who is 40, swam from Dover to Grisnez. He was m the water 22hr. 35min., against Webb's 21h. 45min. He covered, including drift, 60 miles. He tells his own story: — "I began with a good English breakfast, an hour before I started. Ham and eggs are splendid to swim on. I' can always start off soon after a meal. I have had practically no training for this, only 18 hours swimming, and the longest swim was six miles. During the first half of, the swim I had the worst time from the third to the. fifth hours. It was finite rough. I got very knocked about, and was seasick, though a good sailor. During the first .12 hours I determined several times to give up and go back, and start again when conditions were better. But I am glad I did not I used the over-arm side stroke practically all the way, except for a time when my heart gave me trouble with contraction. Then I turned off and swam on my back. An expert swimmer friend told me the over-arm side stroke was th'e' ugliest stroke, and 1 was the ugliestrswimrilefc he knew. I think he must Acknowledge himself wrong. ' ' '■ ' '■' y. "I was never, unconscious on the way, though I sometimes go to sleep m the water, hut had hallucinations, and saw all sorts of horrible things, too horrible to describe. When I was very 'groggy' and very miserable, the men m the boat sang to me anything they could think of, as loud as they could. That helped immensety. > I was stung thousands of times byt jellyfish, particularly big yellow ones, but I swam flatter than most men,' and a great many slid away Under me. Tlte boys m the boat were splendid. "After the first five hours we found the motor-boat was making too much spray and wash. ' Three of them got' out a little rowing-boat and towed ' the motor-boat with the eight- other men m it for 17 hours. I can never be grateful enough to the person whose boat I had, and his two friends, all of whom rowed. I ate patent food, chicken, and chocolate, and some tea, which, however, was not for food, but to cure ; indigestion. The last five miles, the 'swimmer's mile,' as they \call itylook me. seven and a half hours to do;' but I never thought of coming out.' j would have gone on another seven Hours if necessary. It was a tremendous task to finish, but I was encouraged by the party m my : boat and' the sight, of the people . on the shore awaiting my landaug. I was shot past Grisnez Point by the tide, at a distance of 400 yards from the shore. I made a race to get m west ,of .the point, where there is a sandy spit, but was caught by the off-setting current and carried round the point ag¥ui, only 100 yards or so away. I was feeling very queer during this time. My heart seemed as if it had stopped, and 1 knew I was near the end of my resources. If I had not been an old hand at the game I should have gone under. A person has worked out my mileage for the swim, and it averages one and three-quarter miles an hour. My course worked out like a badly-written "M," with a loop on the first down stroke." WEIDMAN DESCRIBES THE FINISH. Weidman, the well-known Dover swimmer describes the finish as follows :— "The way he plodded along was a sight. When we got near Cape Grisnez we sang the 'Marseillaise' for halfhours on end, and Burgess shouted out, 'That's it, boys, let it go. They like that over here.' I am sure the people on the shore could hear us, as they kept waving their hands and handkerchiefs. When we got near the shore I jumped overboard and swam with Bill, and urged him on for all he was worth. Gradually we got to shore, and when the "water was up to my knees I said to him : 'Bill, put your feet down gradually.' He got his feet down, and stood upright. Then he staggered, and was about to fall, but I said : 'Take it easy, Bill; plenty of time; be careful. He nearly fell, and I caught arid helped him up the sandbanks, and laid him down, when lie started crying like a child. This upset' me, and I began to cry too. NEARLY BEATEN. After half hours' swimming Burgess was nearly beaten through his friends m the boat giving him chocolate with too much sugar. I'or some time his stomach had been upset. He took food at halfhour intervals during the best part of the night. He took chocolate, hot milk, and grapes. He is extremely fond of eingerbeer, and said he would give a sovereign fpr a\drink of it. Mr Watson, however, had learned by previous experience with Burgess that his favorite drink was his greatest enemy. All night a haze hung over the water, and the Grisnez light and English lights were dimly visible only at .tunes. At dawn the nearestJ land, Sandgate, was only three mil.es. distant. Apout this time, after 18 hours' swimming. Burgess got a litle weak, and said he felt Mlight-headed." He summed up the whole situation by saying he, had a bad fit of the blues, and if the men m the boat did not sing to him he should "chuck" it shortly. The party immediately unearthed its musical members, who Avere somewhat scarce, and all badly out of form. One man led off with the "Miserere"— a queer melody for anyone longing for encouragement. Burgess asked for the "Marseillaise," and the whole party broke out into its stirring strains. Thinking he was still many miles off the coast, Burgess asked for twenty drops of champagne every hour, and "not another drop, if I go down on my knees for it." When informed that he was now only a mile and a half off the shore he brightened up very much and; went away again with the words, "No champagne, then." He was given*' a tablet, and some essence of peppermint, which seemed to ease^im) and he went on again steadily. Captain Pearson sang out, "If you can stick to it a little longer, Bill, you won't be troubled with the job again." To which Burgess answered, amid cheers, "Oh, we'll settle it now." Weidman went m at 6.30 a.m., and Burgess, noticing that he was using a poor arm-stroke, gave him a short lesson m swimming, which greatly amused the onlookers. When told he had only a mile and a quarter to go he cried out, "Oh, well, Weidman, that's only our ordinary morning dip." About 8 o'clock he had another attack of stomach cramp, which prevented him swimming his best. He found he was not making headway, and took to the back-stroke, which was hailed with ahou'ts of "Hulloa, Holbein!" to which Burgess replied, "Well, I have been third m the world's back-stroke cham^ pionship but it was a good many years ago." As Burgess slowly fought his way inch by inch into the bay east of Grisnez, the scene was most dramatic. It was a race with the tide and Burgess won. One might almost say by inches. He got inside the bay and into slack water, and another quarter of an hour's painful but cheerfully-performed work brought his gigantic task to a close. The p.xciteineilt m the boat -was intense. The' whole of the party took off their shoes and stockings and eagerly awaited word from the skipper that ( the water was shallow; enough to walkvin.
Burgess, game to the last, sprinted the last 200 yards on his left oA'erarm stz'oke. Exactly at 10 minutes 10, amid roar upon roar from his friends, Burgess stood upright on the sand, having swum from England to France m 22 hours 35 minutes, and haA'ing covered no less than 39£ miles actual swimming. Including drift, the mileage, according to the pilot's estimate,.was about 60 miles. Trials .with the v Channel have usually proved expensive.' Perhaps Burgess' successful eff%ticost him less than any of his failures. " FolloAVing the usual practice of hiring tugs and paying experts, m one season alone he spent over £1000. With his friends ■m the motor boat the final attempt would be comparatively cheap. INTERESTING INTERVIEW. Among the interviews published is one with the widoAV of Captain Webb. "I am so glad Burgess succeeded," she said, "because, first of all, he deserved it so thoroughly, and also because his success proves that the great feat was not impossible, and thus ends the Controversy raised some time ago by sceptics who said that Captain Webb did not accomplish it, Avithout aid. I do not think the present-day Channel swimmers train as hard as Captain Webb did. The winter before he went down to Dover lie spent m a little yacht at New Brighton, and every day he went SAvimming. In all possible ways he endeavored to harden himself, and left his chest bare to the Avinds. He was shorter than Burgess, and Avould have been a sloAver SAFimmer. At the. time he crossed the Channel Captain. W«bb swam the whole distance -with the breast stroke. The overarm stroke was unknoAvn then. During the swim he did not take any solid food. All the nourishment he received was beef tea and old ale, m the properties of which he was a great believer. Captain W^bb would never talk a great deal of his effort, and disliked much to be called a hero."
THE CHANNEL SWIM., Poverty Bay Herald, Volume XXXVIII, Issue 12581, 11 October 1911
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