Diana Nyad’s swim

Diana Nyad successfully completed, on her fifth attempt, her 103-mile swim from Cuba to the US. News reports emphasized that she was the first person to do so without a shark cage. David Shiffman, who studies sharks, says that the repeated mentioning of that statement may have given the impression that sharks pose a particularly acute danger when they do not. Jellyfish were more likely to have derailed her, as The Onion notes.

Shiffman explains a possible reason the cage-free emphasis.

The shark cages used by distance swimmers are very different from the shark cages used for recreational scuba diving with great whites. They are large and dragged behind a boat, and they give what some say is an unfair advantage to swimmers by reducing drag. In 1997, Susie Maroney became the first woman to swim from Cuba to Florida, but she used a shark cage. The frequent use of “without a shark cage” in media coverage could simply be meant to specify which record Diana Nyad technically earned, but we rarely see such attention to technicalities. The phrasing is likely meant to convey the supposed danger of swimming with sharks more than the specific record she earned.

His article gives some interesting information on sharks and their behaviors.

Of course, doing this at her age (64) is a major achievement for Nyad. Although it would never occur to me to attempt such feats of endurance and their appeal eludes me completely, one has to admire the sheer determination that drives people like Nyad to try such things.


  1. Mano Singham says

    Interesting! I hope that she is able to substantiate her claims. Alas, I am prepared to learn the worst. Somehow it seems as if no sport, however obscure, is immune from the pressure to succeed at any cost.

  2. invivoMark says

    That doesn’t pass the sniff test.

    Really? People think she swam out into the ocean, then had a bunch of her buddies cruise up on a boat, climbed on board, and laid back sipping pina coladas while pretending to accomplish something that someone else has basically already done anyway? What the hell’s the point?

    If she was just doing it for the publicity, she picked the wrong sport. She should’ve just skydived out of a balloon with a Red Bull logo strapped to her chest. Nobody cares about long-distance swimming.

    She was clearly doing this as a personal challenge. She tried the same swim 35 years ago in a shark cage and didn’t make it. If she cheated, she’d probably be way too upset with herself to keep up appearances. There’s no way she faked it. There’s no reason for it.

  3. Doug Little says

    I think other long distance swimmers are skeptical and are asking for some data on how she completed her swim. It seems that there is a general lack of cooperation on the part of the team to supply the details of the swim. I’m with invivoMark on this one, having attempted it so many times before I think that she completed the swim but who knows if she adhered to all the rules along the way to make it official. It would only take her hand touching the support boat to invalidate it as a record but as a personal achievement no one can take that away.

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