Benedikt Hjartarson had to give up on his goal of swimming unsupported across the English Channel yesterday after almost 15 hours in the water. Strong currents by the coast of France drove him off course.
“It’s terribly sad not to have made it through the outflow. It is so difficult that I didn’t stand a chance,” Hjartarson told Morgunbladid. “We were delayed by a half an hour this morning [Tuesday] because the captain was late. If we’d begun at the right time this probably would have worked out.”
The first part of the swim went really well, but afterwards Hjartarson encountered some hindrances. He had to swim around tangles of seaweed and schools of jellyfish; one landed on his face and caused minor burns.
There were only two or three nautical miles left when Hjartarson had to give up.
The last miles by France are considered especially difficult and are known as “the graveyard of dreams.” Timing is vital. Hjartarson was caught by strong currents which drove him off course.
The swimmer fought the currents for awhile, but decided to give up on his goal when it became clear that he couldn’t reach land where he had planned to swim ashore.
Another Icelandic swimmer, Eyjólfur Jónsson, encountered the same problem when he tried to swim across the English Channel in 1958 and had to quit shortly before reaching France.
Hjartarson swam to honor the memory of his eight-year-old niece Emma Katrín Gísladóttir, who died in May. Her uncle named the channel “Emmusund” after her; it is usually called “Ermasund” in Icelandic.