The courageous group of intrepid swimmers attempting to swim across the Sea of Cortez and set a new world record for the longest continuous non-stop relay on the open seas was defeated by large blooms of jellyfish.
Initially, lead swimmer Nora Toledano was hit by a large bloom during the team’s second day in the warm ocean waters in the Sea of Cortez. Captain Vito Bialla described the attacks, “Nora was seriously attacked by jellyfish. They stung her repeatedly on her arms, stomach and legs, paralyzing her.”
“When we pulled her out of the water, it looked like acid was poured on her body.”
Despite the serious attack on Nora in the early evening, the team forged on. No one was ready to quit or call the swim. But tending to Nora’s wounds and shock due to the toxins and knowing that they would face similar situations, the courage and commitment to the swim and to each other was beyond words.
Next swimmers Monica Ramirez, Paul Lundgren and Edna Llorens all bravely dove in to begin their next legs on their fifth rotation of one-hour segments. With literally a sea of jellyfish being pushed directly into the swimmers’ course by wind-whipped 5-foot seas, there was nothing anyone could do but hope and pray the stings would be less than severe. As each swimmer looked deeply within themselves before jumping in from the escort boat, they knew the stings and pain would come.
“Edna was attacked, but fortunately her injuries were not as severe as Nora’s. Paul faced multiple attacks but, unfortunately, Monica had to have jellyfish pulled off of her face, basically blinding her,” recalled Vito.
“Faced with a setting sun on their second consecutive day in the ocean and another 40 nautical miles in 30-knot winds, the conditions were the toughest I’ve ever been in. Each swimmer performed well above all expectations with more courage I’ve ever witnessed.” These are powerful words and an incredible tribute to his teammates from a man who fought in the Vietnam War.
“We swam 63.8 nautical miles (118K or 73.4 miles) in 36 hours and 57 minutes. We called off the swim because we could not swim another 40 nautical miles (74K) with a reduction of swimmers under these conditions.”
Like Penny Palfrey‘s 60K (32.3 nautical miles or 37 miles) solo attempt from Oahu to Kauai last month that was called due to Portuguese Man o War attacks, nature seemingly has had the upper hand in the longest ocean swims in the 2010 season.
But the courage shown by these valiant swimmers in their attempts is as memorable and inspirational as in any successful crossing.
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