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(AV17805) From Athlete to Adventure Writer

(AV17805) From Athlete to Adventure Writer


good evening i’m gloria jones johnson
director of women’s and gender studies program here at iowa state university i
like to welcome you to our program tonight our guest lectures tonight are
Lynn Cox and dr. Gabriela Mimi Auto and they’re going to talk on from athlete to
adventure writer tonight’s event is part of the 35th anniversary celebration of
the Women’s and Gender Studies Program celebration for the year in addition
there are several other sponsors of tonight lectures and is really
underscores the ground over to praise of having these people remarkable women
visit with us this these past two days so the other co-sponsors tonight are the
athletic department biological sciences club ecology evolution and arguments mol
biology English environmental studies kinesiology kinesiology and health club
Elias Miller lecture fund MFA program in creative writing and the environment
marine biology Club pre medical professions club the vagina warriors
Women and Gender Studies Program writer’s block and the Committee on
lectures funded by GSB let me tell you a little bit about our guest tonight Lynne
Cox competed completed her first open water swim at age 14 when she swam
across the Catalina channel 27 miles with a group of teenagers from SIL Beach
California in 1972 at age 15 Lynne swam across the English Channel
and shattered the men’s and women’s world records with the
time of nine hours and 57 minutes she was the first person to perform many
swims worldwide including across the 42 degree fahrenheit waters of the Strait
of Magellan between three of the Aleutian Islands around the Cape of Good
Hope and 1.2 miles in Antarctica from the ship the orlova to Necco harbour her
efforts to promote diplomacy and peace have included swims across the Berlin
Strait opening the u.s. Soviet border for the first time in 48 years across
the beagle channel between Argentina and China and Chile across the Spree River
between the newly united German Republic’s and through the Gulf of Aqaba
from Egypt to Israel and from Israel to Jordan tracing the progress of peace
between the three countries she is the author of three books swimming to
Antarctica Grayson and South with the Sun the recipient of the susan b anthony
award for leadership and she was inducted into the Swimming Hall of Fame
in 2000 dr. Gabriela me Otto has a great love of nature languages Human Rights
dance and poetry in addition to her medical degree she also holds a master’s
in public health and as a family physician she has focused on community
and integrative medicine and multicultural wellness practices in
California and Alaska Gabriella has also volunteered her time for humanitarian
relief and development work in Latin America and the Balkans her poetry
appears in pop art an anthology of Southern Californian poetry
she is also on staff at the Children’s Clinic in Long Beach California with no
further introductions I’m proud to present our guest lectures tonight Lynne
Cox and dr. gabriela mio tell it works good evening I am very very happy to be
here at Iowa State and love that the temperatures have dropped so it feels
like being in Antartica again actually I wanted to give you a little background
on how I got into the sport of open water swimming and then became an author
that focused on these different swims and adventures my whole swimming career
really began in Manchester New Hampshire I was swimming with the Manchester swim
team and we were working out daily in the summertime at the Ricoh theater pool
which was a 50 meter pool outside and we had the best swimmers from Harvard
University coming to train in the summertime with us and it was an age
group team that was training pretty much four hours a day we had two hours of
swimming and then two hours of calisthenics and there was one day where
it started raining and getting really cold and the kids in the pool were
messing around throwing kick boards and splashing and diving into the landlines
and so they were trying to convince coach Merritt to let us out of the pool
and so finally he said okay I’ll make a deal with you if you guys get out and do
four hours of calisthenics I’ll let you out of the pool like ah there’s no way I
want to do four hours of calisthenics because when we did calisthenics if we
did 20 push-ups if somebody messed up then we’d has to start all over again
and there are two kids on the team that did that all the time so I went to the
coach and said could I stay in the pool and swim and he said okay and two of the
older swimmers from Harvard to the guys said
good idea can we stay in the pool coach and swim to and he said okay so we
started swimming and the wind picked up this guy got black the wind was gusting
across the pool so there were little waves going across the pool and then it
started raining really hard the water temperature probably dropped to 70
degrees and the two swimmers from Harvard said we’re out of here but I was
having a blast it was like I had this whole 50 meter pool to myself and I was
swimming through these waves and I was having so much fun and I didn’t want to
get out of the pool but it started hailing and it really hurt I mean I’m
like it’s like these peas they’re being spied on your back and it hurts and you
can see the pieces of ice floating on the water and I’m like I’m trying to
duck under the water so I can keep swimming so don’t have to go to
calisthenics and it’s like it’s not working I go down I come back up I get
hit on the head I get down so I figured what I’ll do is I’ll climb in the
gutters and hang out there so I did that and I watched the storm rage across the
water kind of like you get here maybe just these amazing storms and there was
thunder and lightning and stuff but it was far enough away to not have to get
out of the pool and get back in and continued swimming for another couple
hours and the air temperature dropped about 50 degrees one of the mothers on
the team who was knitting mrs. Milligan came running over to me with this towel
and her daughter was a woman named Joyce Milligan who was the best girl summer on
the team so she came over to me and said Lin aren’t you cold and like know who
I’m not she goes you know you should be freezing I go well it was it was great
and she goes you know one day I bet you’re gonna swim across the English
Channel and that idea stuck with me when I was nine years old and what it told me
weight looking back at it now is that what adults say to kids really matters
and how you affect somebody can be just within that one sentence it can affect
their entire life but that idea stuck with me my folks realized that my older
brother and two sisters and I wanted to swim and we wanted to do well but our
coaching was kind of minimal in the wintertime we would have volunteer
coaches we’d swim in 20 yard pools that were overheated we didn’t have gone
initially when we first started out so you come outside and you look up at the
lights need see these rainbows and your eyes would be like running all the time
because of the chlorine anyway my folks decided that we move us to California so
we could train with the Olympic coach and I remember it was like sort of like
Field of Dreams we went to this 50 meter pool in Long Beach California and it was
where they had had the 1968 Olympic Trials we arrived there in 1969 so it
was like a brand new facility and we looked at this place going and actually
my dad took us from the airport the swimming pool first before we even moved
into our new home and and so the next day we started work out and it was just
amazing because I was in Lane eight the slowest Lane and all the best swimmers
were in Lane one and there were swimmers from all around the world and so I don’t
know why I was telling coach since when we heard today and yesterday that you
know I didn’t I wasn’t intimidated I would go over to them and say to the guy
that would win the 400 meter I am a guy named Hans bashed ganar Larsson from
Sweden could you watch my butterfly huh ganar and ganar would watch my butterfly
and then I would talk to Hans Bosch not who who would do the 1653 in the 1500
and get a silver medal for Germany in the 76 Olympic Games I’d say Hans would
you watch my flip turns and Hans would watch my flip turns and I’d ask him will
you show me how you swim and these guys were like in their early 20s I’m 14
years old and they’re showing me how they swim so it’s like the coolest thing
in the world because you what I learned then was that people who are great are
willing to help other people because they’re not just great athletes great
people and so that was something that I carried with me that whenever I really
want to do something important I need to look for somebody who can do it a lot
better than me and learn from them so that was sort of that stuck into my head
then as time went by I worked out for two years with his team in Long Beach
California with the best swimmers in the world and coach Campbell was one of the
best coaches in the world he wound up coaching for Olympic US Olympic teams
and one day he said to me is you know when you have this ability at the end of
the workout to go further you always seem to have more energy and I think
that you’re kind of getting bored here in the swimming pool
there’s no mile for in the Olympics for women there’s not even an 800 freestyle
so why don’t you think about swimming the three-mile race off Seal Beach and
that was when I was 14 years old and so I asked him what it was like and
basically the objective was what you start from shore you swim along the
steel beach pier some out to this oil rig around a buoy and swim back into
shore and that would be 3 miles so I said I’d love to do it and I remember
entering the race that day and going to the beach and starting off from shore
and hitting the water dead last because I couldn’t run worth anything and then
diving under the waves and I was like still dead last and I kept swimming and
as I started getting into the water and going through the waves and looking
around me and feeling the bounce and the lift the water around me and looking at
the sunshine and seeing the seagulls flying by and suddenly these pelicans
coming by and flying like inches from my head I was just like this is so cool and
as I swam I started picking up my speed and then all of those kids that have
passed me up and workout that were the sprinters were sort of falling behind
and for once I could see myself doing really well so I wound up doing going
around the buoy at the at the at the half-mile mark way offshore and then
coming back towards Shore and picking up speed and my mom and dad were standing
on the pier cheering me on and that kept going and wound up coming in first in
the women’s group and third in the men’s and that day I heard about a group of
kids that had been training for a year there was one 12 year old and four 14
year olds who are planning to swim across the Catalina channel and Catalina
channel here’s my powerpoint here’s kaileena islands and here’s the
mainland of California in a straight line it’s 21 miles back then we didn’t
have GPS and the navigators that were navigating for us used radar so instead
of swimming a straight line you would swim this inverted s course we started
from Catalina Island at midnight because the wind is down at
that time we had lifeguards from the local seal Seal Beach lifeguard
apartment in Long Beach lifeguard Department and then we had two boats
that were way off in front of us and the reason they were way off in front of us
like a quarter of a mile ahead of us is because they had a lot of light on the
boat and and we didn’t want to have a lot of light near us because if you have
a lot of light you can have a lot of fish and if you can have a lot of fish
then you can attract bigger fish and you don’t want bigger fish when you’re
swimming across County a Chow so we set off at midnight the water was
pitch-black and and it was a little bit disorienting because you’re going into
this area where the waters block the skies black everything as your hand
enters the water it starts out to be black but then as you pull through the
water you see these contrails of lights of sparks streaming off your fingertips
and the whole area sort of illuminates like phosphorescence around you as it
continued swimming you could see these flying fish leaping out of the water
toward the lights of the boats in the distance and you could see them turning
pinks and purples and greens it was just this amazing contact with nature but the
other thing was that we had these pilot boards that were next to us where there
was a little bit of flashlight light on them and they were going going Dell
because the batteries weren’t very strong and and so it was really hard to
keep track of where we were positioned in the water so what I did is I started
looking up at the stars and that was amazing because suddenly you’re away
from shore and you can see the entire canopy of sky above you illuminated as
points of light and you could see shooting stars and you could see
different color stars and you can see the Mars and Venus and I’m swimming
along and as time is going on you can see the constellation moving across the
heavens and so instead of trying to watch a watch what you couldn’t anyway
you could sort of tell that there had been
I’m passing about four hours into the swim one of our teammates Nancy Dale had
gone into hypothermia and had to be pulled out and it was like that was
probably the lowest point of the swim because we had agreed doing the swim
together and to see one of our teammates getting pulled out it was really awful
but at the same time I think it made us realize that we would stick it out we
would do this together there was one point about five hours into the swim
where my coach said you know what you are so strong that you can go and break
the men’s and womans world record so why don’t you just leave Nancy and Andy and
Dale and Stacy behind and go for the record and I thought about it and I
thought no I can’t do that because they let me train with their team I you know
I was privileged to be able to do this with them and we had decided that no
matter what we would stay together so because it was faster I’d get about a
mile ahead and tread water and then wait for them to catch up and then swim with
them for a while and then I get ahead and finally in 12 hours and 36 minutes
we made it to shore my friends and I were lying down on the shore sort of
shivering and trying to warm up for about an hour and then we had to walk
these cliffs and Palos Verdes up to the to where the parent our parents had
their parking lot the parking left of the car got back home we had used lanlan
which is a sticky substance that’s made from the wool of sheep and we smelled
really bad and the stuff you just just wanted to get it off so the only way
that really worked was to take a whole thing of dishwashing detergent squirted
all over me and then sit in the bathtub and watch these cakes of grease come off
and later on I learned that you don’t want to do that you don’t want to wear
this lanlan because it’s made from the wool of sheep and it could attract fish
that you don’t want swimming with you so anyway I
in the bathtub and and and floated and thought about wow you know we were the
first group of kids to swim 27 miles across the Catalina channel and we did
it and and we had all these people that helped us but we made it and so I
thought I want to swim across the English Channel so the next morning I
went to my mom and dad and said hey will you help me swim across the English
Channel and they said yes so the next day I went back to coach gambrel and
said would you help me train swim across the English Channel and he said you know
I’ve never coached anyone to swim the channel before and I said that’s okay
coach I’ve never done it before so what he did is he took these workouts
that he had done he’d worked with and through the Olympic swimmers and applied
them to open water swimming for me and what happened was there was one day
where I was training and my mom was walking me with me between five and ten
miles a day and there was a woman named Helen Olson who had grown up in Norway
and her daughter was a swimmer on the team but she liked to come out and walk
the beach with my mom and she walked and talked the whole way and I remember her
talking about raw Amundsen and how Ronal Amundsen was the first man to reach the
South Pole and how amazing he was because he was able to endure this
journey and the cold that went like below minus 40 degrees and so I thought
this man must be really exceptional and she kept telling me these things about
you were like almond s’en because you have this endurance and you can go fast
and you will swim across the English Channel and again this wasn’t my mom
telling me this was one friend’s mom who was encouraging me to do this and that
sat in my head and so when I went to England with my mom you hire a pilot to
go along with you there’s a list of names you can choose from you get
somebody from the English Channel Swimming Association and you set off at
midnight usually again because it’s the airs Commerce so there’s less the waters
not choppy and you start off we we set off from shore and I was really excited
because from all the way back from being nine years old to now 15 years old it
was my goal to swim the channel but the other thing was that my goal also was to
break the men’s and women’s world records
so started offshore get probably about halfway across and I started noticing
that there were things floating around me and and they felt like the water was
pitch-black and I couldn’t really see and it was like this went on for like a
hundred yards 200 yards I kept thinking these things were all around me like
heads floating and finally I turned to the pilot on the boat now yellow then
said red what is in the water he said oh a ship just went by it dumped off a
bunch of lettuce heads these things do things to your mind when you’re in black
water alone swimming well years and years later my friend John York would do
a swim across the English Channel and he would get within a mile of shore and he
said he knew he had gotten within a mile of shore because a ship had dumped a
whole bunch of quants and he was swimming through hundreds and hundreds
of yards the croissants and he said he was so hungry that he thought he might
pick one up and eat it but decided that was probably a bad idea you know when
you do these swims you do get hungry and and you you go through these periods of
I think I can do this then then you’re tired you’re talking to yourself and you
just keep going and try to keep going at the pace back then my dad was a doctor
so he had suggested that I try all different things out before I do this
one and and so what I wound up doing is every hour so I would have some water or
I would have some apple juice or I have oatmeal raisin cookie the apple juice
was something that I could warm up that would put energy back into me but when
you swim for 6 7 8 10 hours your stroke your throat gets really swollen and the
salt water is really abrasive so kept swimming through the day into the night
and one of the most difficult things about swimming this channel is that when
you are usually a mile from shore the tide changes and it’s like running a
marathon and then seeing the finish line moving backwards so at that point if
you’ve been swimming for hours and you’ve been trying to keep a pace it’s
that point we have to start sprinting and so I just remember my mom like um
boat crying and the official observer telling me I’ve got a sprint and the guy
that’s pile the boat reg brickle saying you’ve gotta
go now otherwise you’re not going to make it in through the tide and so you
sprint and you sprint and you sprint and if you’ve got a great pilot and I did he
was able to work his way through the current and I started making headway and
then I get thrown back again and watch the finish line go backwards again and
kept going and they were watching the time all the time and basically knowing
that I had been four hours ahead of the men’s and womans world record but that
time was getting eaten up finally got within the shores and and there was an
area where was all rocks and that was like now 200 yards from where we were
and then there was a beach that was another mile away there was a surge
swell slamming against the rocks and so it was like do you want to go for the
rocks or do you want to go for the beach and it’s like do you want to go for the
record and you want to go for the sand so I went for the rocks you know again
when you’ve been swimming really hard for hours on hours you’re tired I mean
it may be like when you’ve worked on a farm in Iowa for hours and hours and
you’re exhausted at the end of the day but then you still have to do more and
have that surge of energy that was sort of where I was but continued figured out
a way to get in before the surge sort of and then sort of get slammed a little
bit against the rocks and climbed out and there were three people on the
cliffs in NK Pranay looking down on us and they yelled in French to national
mosh and I had been practicing all night long wheesh a national mosh and it’s
like yes I swam the channel you could hear the three people clapping and then
I got back down and sort of get slammed around on the rocks again but get down
back into the water swam out to the story where they take a towel and lift
it put it into your arms and then they hoist you or they try to but if you’re
covered with lanlan as I was that time they sort of keep dropping you in the
water and eventually to get you into the boat well the official observer who had
been on many swims was on the boat crying and like Mickey did I make it
like did I break the record and he couldn’t talk and like come on did I do
it he said yes yes love you broke the woman
time by about an hour in the men’s time by about 20 minutes and he was going to
go back and check it all so basically at age 15 I had succeeded at my biggest
goal in life and I then flew back to California with my mom to go back to
high school and sort of went through a midlife crisis now what do you do when
you’ve achieved your highest goal in life at age 15 but I was really really
lucky because there was a man named Davis Hart from Springfield
Massachusetts who was an open water swimmer who went to England and broke my
record so the following year I went back again and the first time I swam the
English Channel I swam 30 miles the second time I swam and I swam 33 miles
and I broke his time by 20 minutes and as time goes by you meet people that you
don’t expect me through time and I was at an open water swimming race offered
Alcatraz and this young man came over to me and said do you know Davis Hart and I
said yes he said well you know he’s my coach and I said really he said yeah he
said you know the day that you broke his record I said yeah he was so mad at you and so but what you also learn is
there’s a time when you do these things and there’s a time where you go beyond
what you’ve done and where you want to do something more and there are people
that go and swim the English Channel there’s a woman named Allison Streeter
who has swam the English Channel 43 times but I figured that I wanted to do
something more than that and I had met a swimmer from New Zealand who had said
why don’t you think about swimming cook straits power point again the North
Island to the South Island of New Zealand is is ten miles so I figured at
the worst I mean if it’s a bad day this 10 mile swim is going to take me five
hours to swim so I thought that would be a really exciting thing to do to try to
be the first woman to do it there have been three men before went is New
Zealand worked with a crew there set off with a support team after five hours of
swimming we were further from the finish than we had started the current had
carried us back around the North Island and
the weather was really bad the wind was between 40 and 45 knots you guys know
whether he or not so it was just really depressing but what happened was Air New
Zealand that flew between the North and South Islands of New Zealand changed the
course of the aircraft so they could show their support and they could radio
down the weather information to us I kept swimming the air Atika ferry that
went between the two islands about halfway when I started making progress
about halfway across the era tika came over and raised the American flag and
everyone on board came out to cheer us on kept kept swimming the surf got
between the waves and in the middle channel of Cook Strait got between six
and eight feet high and I’d never swum in conditions like that before
but then the Dolphins came and this is like the most coolest thing in the world
because the water there is sort of the color of your shirt this beautiful
beautiful blue and you could swim along and sea forever and you could see
dolphins below dolphins below dolphins and suddenly there were a couple and
actually there was a guy named Robbie and a pile over beside me he goes watch
this watch this then so I’m watching and suddenly these two Dolphins leap out of
the water in front of us and that is like the signal and then there’s all
these other dolphins that are leaping and then they’re twirling in front of us
I’m like oh this is incredible and so for an hour you could hear them clicking
and squeaking and playing and you could see them coming from behind and around
and their boats were around us so they were entertaining everybody all around
so I continued swimming six hours seven hours eight hours around nine hours is
like going through a bad period again dolphins reappeared 10 hours bad period
11 hours bad period the Dolphins would have would arrive again the Sun started
to set behind the South Island and it created a shadow on the water and we’re
about two miles from the finish of the swim and the pilot John Cataldo was
telling me you need to swim faster now Mika’s no no it’s shark feeding time now
there’s lots of sharks there great pointers and so you really need to hurry
up and finish the swim I’m like okay well at that point when we were about
400 yards from finally finishing a swim eight more dolphins came in and they
came right next to the two paddlers on either side of me you could see them
right below the surface of the water and there
clicks and squeaks had gotten very high pitched and there were fishermen from
the South Island that moved their boats out to come and point us to where to go
to get into Shore and the Dolphins were going this way and the fishermen are
sort of pointing that way and I thought go with the dolphins because they know
this probably better so we follow the Dolphins the tide was really shifting
there were these great big strands of bull kelp which are thick ropey pieces
of kelp and so I just pulled on the kelp and wound up getting to shore the swim
took 12 hours and two and a half minutes and I realized that you stay in there
through the whole thing you finished what you set out to do and and the
bigger thing was that I was just a swimmer and I wasn’t from New Zealand
but I had people from this country who had been following the swim throughout
the day on the radio that had been cheering me on and that’s what really
got me across so that next day to celebrate the swim church bells were
rung throughout the country and it made me once again feel like wow an American
in New Zealand and people really care and and they were they were so great
went back home back to high school and he’s trying to figure out what to do
with the rest of my life again and so my dad pulled out a map of Alaska and
Siberia Alaska and Siberia in the middle of this area is the Bering Strait and
very a must in the center of the Bering Strait is little Diomede and bigd I mean
the United States is little dime heed back then I mean little little diamonds
the United States big guy Meade was a Soviet Union now it’s now it’s called
Russia so my dad said why don’t you think about swimming from the United
States to the Soviet Union as a way to show
that the two superpowers are 2.7 miles apart this was during the Cold War and
this idea was just like so far ahead of its time but I started thinking about it
and thought you know maybe this would be possible so I started training my
brother went to Nome and to Wales Alaska talked to the Inuit we started trying to
figure out how to coordinate a swim the difficulty and in that swim was that the
water temperature was going to be 38 degrees and I would be planning to swim
with just a bathing suit cap and goggles I spent 11 years trying to get support
to do the swim I wrote to the US ambassador the Soviet Union the Soviet
ambassador United States the Assistant Secretary of State the Secretary of
State that president the head of the Foreign Ministry Senators Congressmen
people who had done business in the Soviet Union Armand Hammer
actually it was Armen hammers office that introduced me to the Soviet
consulate in San Francisco I went there and the door opened a little bit and
then kept trying and trying and trying and finally a day before the slam
happened we got the approval from Gorbachev so with it with a team of
Inuit in 30-foot long walrus skin boats we set off in the fog to cross the
border and to meet up with a Soviet boats at the border on board were two
doctors one from the University of London who was the world’s expert on
hypothermia and there was another doctor named Ian Ivor who was from University
of Alaska and what they had had me do was to swallow a thermal pill which was
a pill that you would that has a radio frequency in it that would transmit my
my core temperature to receiver onboard the boat and so that way they could
monitor my temperature and they hoped that it were would work but the actual
what actually happened was that in the saltwater the signal dissipated and they
couldn’t get my temperature so they would have me roll over my back and they
would hold the receiver attached to a broomstick held near my stomach to try
to get my core temperatures and they weren’t getting accurate readings so at
one point I just sort of said you know it’s really more important to make the
swim than it is to get body temperatures so I sort of said I just got a swim so
it continued on the fog started to lift we were about four hundred yards from
shore the water temperature had dropped to 38 degrees
there was a skiff coming from the south toward us and there was a man named
Vladimir McMillan I find out yelling at us waving his arms and saying my name is
Vladimir McMillan I’m from toss I’m with the Russian of the Soviets we
are here to welcome you but they can’t land there because it’s a cliff can you
swim a half and a half a mile down the beach seeing where those people are
standing on the snowbank because if you can swim there they will be able to
welcome you to shore and you’re thinking the waters 38 degrees I’m really cold I
really really want to finish but but the whole point was about reaching out to
the Soviets and hoping that they would reach back and so we parallel the shore
and went a half a mile and climbed out on the snow banks and I heard two guys
in Soviet military uniforms talking to me in Russian and like we made it you
know after 11 years of trying to get permission the border was open and then
a few months later when Gorbachev and Reagan were signing the INF missile
treaty Gorbachev President Gorbachev stood up and said it took a bit daring
American girl by the name of Lynne Cox just two hours just went between our two
countries he said it showed how close to each other the two countries are and how
our relations were improving and so it made me realize that yes you know we can
make a difference in this world we can do things that are symbolic we can help
to create things where we connect with each other and network with each other
around the world so from there I would go on to do other swims that were really
challenging and and and I would start thinking about you
know how could I do something that’s further than anything I’ve done before
something that would challenge are you me more than anything ever and how could
I continue doing this research we use doctors on the cold and hypothermia so I
was talking to a friend of mine named Caroline Alexander who had written a
book called endurance and it was about Shackleton in his attempt to get to
actually across the Antarctic continent but he goes no locked in in the ice and
he had to be ready he was able to get all of his men off shore and they were
rescued and she wrote this great book about his great leadership but in the
back of my mind I thought wait a second Amundsen was the first guy to reach the
South Pole Shackleton tried to get to the South Pole he didn’t get across
Antarctica he didn’t even get on to the continent really why is he so great so
that sort of stuck in my head like I think it may be time at some point to
write about Amundsen so what happened then was that I started looking at
nature to figure out how can you do a swim
in a bathing suit cap and goggles in Antarctic waters and I looked at the
Penguins and you know we all have penguins they’re sort of squatty bodied
if you’re tall you lose a lot of body heat really rapidly if you’re shorter
you contain body heat better so penguins are small they’ve got a well
distribution of body fat they also have an error area between their body fat and
their feathers and so I thought you know what I’m gonna do for this woman
Antarctica is I’m going to grow my hair really long I’m gonna pile it up on my
head and I’m not squishing the hat down so I create this area that will keep my
head a little bit warmer people lose 80% of heat through their heads so I figured
okay the other thing I’ll do is I’ll swim like a water polo player I’ll swim
head up but the way I’ll train for it will be different I’ll train like a
sprinter I’ll work on developing upper body strength I’ll work at a very high
rate to create enough heat to compensate for swimming in water temperatures that
would be 32 degrees so I trained and worked with a wrestling coach to figure
out how to work on balance too because I figured that swimming is also about
balance and if I can balance that on land
might be able to balance better in the water and pull more equally of my arms
and swim more efficiently so for two years I worked on this idea and on this
whim and then wound up going to Antarctica to do this one but before I
went I wound up contacting a group of friends that were physicians to go along
with me because the problem with swimming in water that cold is that you
have a nerve in your nose called the vagus nerve and if you over stimulate it
if you jump into very cold water you can flatline you can go into cardiac arrest
so I needed to have people around me that would be there in case something
bad happened but also when you swim in water that cold you’re swimming and
creating heat for a certain amount of time but you could lose too much body
heat and go into hypothermia or at the end of the swim when you’re no longer
exercising the cool blood from the outside of your body can go into your
core and cool your core down too quickly so it’s really important that I had
doctors with me I also had friends who came just to be there in three different
zodiac boats and one of them was a man named Bob Griffith who had grown up in
Nebraska and minutes before well maybe an hour before I was gonna do the swim
we were thinking about things that we would do in case they needed to put me
out of the water quickly and what I did is I had a string that I tied on the
back through my suit that somebody could jump in and grab as a handhold but that
I could have still had problems or sunk with you going to cardiac arrest so what
we did was we were talking to each other and Bob just happened to mention that he
was a cow he was a champion cow Roper from Nebraska so we decided that what we
would do is put Bob in the lead zodiac boat with a lasso and we with Dan in the
Zodiac boat with him wearing a dry suit so that if I had a problem the first
thing that I would do is jump in and the dry suits come over to me and tried to
grab that handhold but if that didn’t work then Bob would take his lasso and
throw it and then Dan would loop it over me and then pull me out of the water so
we went ahead went to whoosh wyah Argentina at the
very tip of South America then from there we went by ship from the very tip
of South America to to the peninsula of Antarctica we sailed for two and a half
day two and a half days south the water conditions were awful the waves were
consistently 30 feet high and we would look at the porthole of the of our cabin
room and it felt like we were inside a washing machine looking out it was just
really hard to be comfortable and most of the people on board the boat were
really sick after we get down to Antarctica we spent pretty much half a
day looking for a place where I could do the swim where there weren’t icebergs
because if you swim around icebergs they can move and they can fall on you and
hurt your crew or you so we had to find a place that was without ice also we had
to make sure that everyone knew that we needed to stay away from the glaciers
and we had been talking about from from the very start of the swim we didn’t
want to get close to the glaciers because they can break off become
icebergs and and fall on the crew or injure some of us so we wound up
planning to do a swim far away from the glaciers and set up the swim and did
this in 2002 and so what I’m going to do now is have Gabriela come on up here to
basically show you some of the background of the of the Antarctic swim
and then because her photos are amazing and she sought them for The New Yorker
and then I’m going to go ahead and show you the Antarctic swim that 60-minutes
captured thank you so I thought I would start
with with a poem because this really makes me think of linen the way she
melts things you know things that paralyze us she is about kind of
breaking through paralysis I called this ode to Seleucia
if the glacier around my heart melts I will have buckets of water to quench my
thirst no longer parched I will know the power of soft water in my veins to
navigate the Oxbow current back towards my true home holding steady against
riptides tumbling with water falls over weathered cliffs of both my own and
nature’s making and marveling at the pool of lapis lazuli seahorses below
drinking from the river of change and the deep well of memory of a splash in
foaming waves buoyed by ocean and wonder holding fast to the palm and the eye of
the storm I will behold icicles who sharpness
transforms in the Sun learn to be both pelagic and demersal move with a
labyrinth of eddies cut my hands at the Delfy spring in the liquid realm of
Pisces float in Sweetwater Lake and I’m really sorry I forgot my glasses and I
can’t read the last line so Lin you know Lin talks about what one
does alone but when one does really through teamwork and so this photo is to
kind of represent that aspect and this was in ushuaia argentina and she was
working with us people from the Navy to practice her swims before actually
getting to Antarctica and this maybe sets the scene a little bit for you know
this the beauty of Antarctica takes really took my breath away and I think
that it has that kind of effect on most people who see it but you can see the
color of the water and those huge icebergs just the way the sky is such an
unusual kind of silver and then you know you think well the Arctic is is like ice
and snow floating but Antarctica is actually continent so here’s this
massive piece of land I really loved this particular image because it almost
made me think of an animal rising up out of the water with its with its ears
there with my background as a physician I was also very moved by the beauty of
ice that really made me think of anatomy and this made me actually think of Lyn
because when you think of brain brainstem and spinal cord and I was
thinking about the power in her body to move forward and this this piece spoke
to me of that of her power so she mentioned penguins do these
happen to be the chin straps and I love these because if you look at them almost
looks like they’re wearing a little a little hat or a little swimmers swimmers
cap with the when we used to also have the thing under our Chin’s there so the
beauty of the chinstrap penguins and then of course there’s always that
aspect that that Linda brings up of really knowing your environment and here
one of the things that would have been a danger to her were the leopard seals and
so we were keeping close eye on those as she did her swims and don’t be fooled by
the smile so here is Lin leaving the orlova did
the ship that we were on for what was going to be the test swim and you know
you can see the others dressed very heavily and there’s Lin as she mentioned
no lanolin beautiful blue suit because she didn’t want to wear black or red or
white and be mistaken for a tasty morsel so beautiful suit and this is a moment
before jumping into that water and there she is
swimming during the test swim notice the color of the water
you know she had talked about how stormy it was so this was an appropriate time
to be swimming but I I whenever I look at these pictures I feel again the the
wind and the cold one thing that Lin did as well you know how do you communicate
well you communicate in many ways trying to see how she’s doing in that water
scene if her fingers were splaying that was it would be a sign of danger scene
if she was really slowing down or seeming to be uncoordinated another
another sign if she had had a lot of blue over her shoulders another sign but
this was great because this was Lin’s way lifting her leg out of the water to
say I’m okay and she would do this periodically during the swim so the
Penguins you know she talked about the beauty of the penguin swimming with her
and it really was something to see them right there with her next to her we
didn’t see as much under her but she has some wonderful stories about that and
then the ones on shore too is like they were standing there going oh my god did
we see what we thought we just saw and these are the Gentoo so a different kind
of penguin down there okay so this is Lin actually on the brink of her
Antarctic mile swim so she did really two major swims but this is the one
where she broke the mile mark and you can see her coming down the stairs there
very cold day again notice everyone else how they’re dressed so Aaron water would both 32° on that
day Fahrenheit and here she is the moment before slipping into water which
she describes in her book like a liquid snow cone and also she mentioned the
water was very sweet possibly because it was glacial melt so a different kind of
of salt water and again the idea of her support team people in two different
zodiacs right with her needing to look out for dangerous hunks of ice and she
mentioned that her normal speed was just over two knots and when she would see
the penguin swimming underneath her they were going she felt at least ten miles
an hour I think he said 15 right Alan yeah so here she is she on that day
completed 1.06 antarctic nautical miles about 1.2 2 miles in 25 minutes in 32
degree water and there she is no lanolin you know basically bathing
suit green this time and I just love this shot it’s I don’t know it seems to
me to catch him catch her essence I think this speaks of I used Fred because
his speaks of the heat he generates heat when she swims but and she generates a
lot of heat in friendships so Lynn Cox extraordinary athlete diplomat author
woman of heart and courage in front thank you thank you so now what we’re gonna do is
actually go to the final swim and show you what it entailed to do that swim and
actually the key is that I do these swims but they’re never done alone that
I people think of me as a solo athlete but I could never put myself out there
without having Gabriella on board the boat and people watching me and knowing
that if something goes wrong they’ll be there to get me out there’s a lot of
trust that goes both ways so we’ll go ahead and show the it’s about ten
minutes thank you thank you so just to sum it up and to connect it to the
writing part I really wanted to share these stories and I wanted to share
these stories about people who extended themselves to help me people that have
helped me do swims around the Cape of Good Hope Straits Magellan and so I
started working on my my senior year of college at UC Santa Barbara
I had actually my freshman year I had a poetry professor who has said Lynn you
can write why don’t you think about writing something and so my senior year
of college I took some creative writing classes and one of the creative writing
instructors said I I will help you work on whatever you want to work on and so I
said I want to write a book so swimming to Antarctica was my first book and it
only took 21 years to get published it became number 13 not 13 on the New York
Times bestseller list and then I worked on Grayson for about a year and it took
another year to get it published and that made number seven on the New York
Times list very briefly but it made it and that’s been translated into 18
different languages from there I went on to decide that hey remember that story
about Rolla Manson and and how he inspired you well I decided that he’d
been he’d been sort of overlooked people had done books on Shackleton on Scott
but nobody had written about arms and so for the last seven years I spent
working on a book about him because it’s the hundred year anniversary of his
achievement of the South Pole and it was so important because he did things that
nobody else did in terms of researching figuring out how to do it looking at all
the early explorers that came before him and then he trained harder than any of
the others and so I looked at these elements I studied his letters and and
one of the key things is that I found that he had a mentor named free Jeff
Nansen who was extraordinary and he went to free Jeff Nantz and said would you
help me and Nansen said yes and he helped teach him all he knew taught him
about science tell them about navigation and then Amundsen went out and when he
did collections of water samples he brought them back for Nansen and then
from there on Amundsen went on to make it to the South Pole but when he came
back and went to Norway and he was waiting for well Admiral Byrd to land
after his first flight to the North Pole they had dinner together and Amundsen
sat down and explained to Admiral Byrd what he needed to do to reach the South
Pole so within writing this story I kept
seeing how great people will look at other worthy people and hand down what
they’ve learned to the next person to allow that person to go further and so I
decided to write this book in a way that read or the book that I’m talking about
south of the Sun that a reader could read what Amundsen did and what Nansen
did and be inspired by their achievements by their research by what
they found discovered who they inspired how they all survived they could look at
these men and see all that but then they could follow who they inspired and part
of our ability now for exploration was in Antarctica was first because of bird
flying there but also because of a man named Gus
who was the first man to fly and land at the South Pole so I went to Pensacola
Florida and interviewed him about what it was like to land on the continent for
the first time and the challenges he had to get the aircraft back into the air
and then from there I talked to people in the Navy who then can continue that
mission and then from there went on to fly the u.s. the US Air Force went on to
fly that mission and so I collected some of their stories because they are now
filling almond ‘sons vision that the way of exploring Antarctica and the futures
through flight and what I’m trying to do in December of this year is go to
Antarctica with a small group of people who are connected to Antarctic
exploration to celebrate almond scens achievement because our South Pole
Station is called the amundsen-scott South Pole station but also to celebrate
the US military that are flying the missions into Antarctica that are
opening up the content and exploration in ways that we did with our country but
as unexplored as our country was at one point Antarctica still is and that’s why
it was so exciting to talk to the people the men and women in the Air Force who
are flying into places nobody’s ever gone before and one of the things that
was so cool to find out was when Amundsen went there he shot the Sun to
navigate and on December 14 1911 he thought he reached the South Pole with
his crew and he shot the Sun and did measurements and realized that he didn’t
make it in Norway they celebrate the 14th of December as the day that he
arrived at the South Pole but he was so pragmatic and he wanted to be so sure
that he reached it that it continued south for three more days which was huge
because that put him and his crew at more risk of not surviving the journey
back and they reached the South Pole on December 17th 1903 jhin’s celebrate the
14th and I’m like now what do I do I’ve gone back to the original documents
and Amundsen saying I didn’t get there until the 17th and the archive
librarians are telling me it’s the 14th so a friend of mine he was a swimmer who
was a cartographer created the map at the beginning of my book and of the
Arctic and the Antarctic in the back of the book and I kept thinking how do I do
this because if he hadn’t pushed on for three more days and reached the South
Pole in the 17th of December when Robert Falcon Scott came through a month later
he would have been the first to get to the South Pole but instead he saw
Amundsen flag in the tent there so it was like he had to do what he did to
achieve what he did but once again it showed the character of this person that
no matter what he would go all the way he would never go short of the goal and
so on the chart in the back of the book we have the de Amundsen thought he
reached the pole the day he confirmed that he reached the South Pole and that
way it was able to cover both both sides of it and and so my reason for doing
these swims is to sort of push out there to see what we can do to go beyond what
we’ve ever done before to find inspiration from others to draw upon
that to help other people achieve their goals and then to be able to write about
these experiences and I think one of the one of the most you know one of the most
exciting experiences was coming ashore in Antarctica and seeing the Penguins on
the glacier walking down and then jumping up jumping into the water and
then Gabrielle is mentioning that you could look down through the water and
see them flying through the water and there would be positive between six and
eight that were were coming right underneath me and rolling over and
looking at me and you could see the streams of bubbles coming off their
beaks and then they’d move off and another flock would come down and and at
the end of the clip there you saw from 16 minutes they literally we’re all
standing on shore the delis were standing on shore and just like
squawking away as if welcome to Antarctica
anyway I’d like to thank you all very much for coming here tonight and if you
might have a couple questions we have just a tiny little bit of time and then
I’m going to be over there signing books if you choose to get a book that you
want signed do any of you have any question or just yell at me does anyone
have any questions yes in Antartica I was Missy two days before my or Oh two
weeks before my 46th birthday yeah and that was at that point that was
the most difficult thing I’ve ever done but since then I followed an almond
essence wakes for the Northwest Passage to write that story to bring it to
present-day time so I did swims off of Greenland that were twenty eight eight
they dropped down to twenty six six and then Baffin Island through the ice and
that was twenty eight eight that was a mile so that was very challenging but I
think a lot of it too is that you know it’s so much fun to look at these things
that you just go this is not possible and then you think well maybe it could
be and then how could I do it and then how can I get a group of people around
me like Gabriella and and very and other people that in Susan’s good are the
people that you saw in those clips who will come and help do this because it
really takes that kind of team to be able to push out there and I remember on
the second swim that I did through the Northwest Passage we were flying in from
the southern part of Baffin Island and as we did this turn in a small aircraft
to land on the airstrip that was just a wooden a rough dirt airstrip I looked
down at the ocean and saw that it was still all frozen over and I’m thinking
oh wow this one’s gonna be a hard sweat and then though we had to wait like set
nine days for the ice to break and I kept thinking oh my gosh these explorers
spent months in the Arctic or in the Antarctic waiting for the ice to break
and at least we were at the end of the spring season it was actually May and
and it started breaking enough to do a swim but I couldn’t use OD AK boats
because they couldn’t fit through the narrow passage of ice so we had a guy in
a kayak with a long rope with a carabiner on the back of it and I had a
harness that friends of mine helped develop from the coast guard and rock
climbers it was just a flat strapped harness with a carabiner on the back so
that something went wrong he could clamp on to me and then just drag me back to
shore but it is amazing to be swimming you know in areas where they’re penguins
and see them and to look into water that looks like the sky and you can see
forever and realize that the human body is really really fragile but it’s also
really resilient and strong and so much of what we can do is limited by what we
think we can do and once we can get beyond that then other things come into
possibility you know okay thank you very much I’ll one more one more
do I still swim yes I still swim and I have something that I’m thinking about
once I am back home for a while and I can get back into training seriously
yeah thank you very much thank you

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