At her 1 p.m. feeding, Diana mentioned pressure in her lungs, but no trouble breathing. She did not attribute the feeling to asthma. Dr. Covington and Dr. Kot were called over to Voyager to check her vitals and they reported that her blood pressure is normal and her lungs are clear.
Diana’s speech was difficult to understand at first due to swelling from saltwater intake. Handler Pauline passed her a big chuck of ice to suck on and her speech improved.
She called for Navigator John Bartlett to come down to the swim platform to ask him a question. “Is the current still with me?” she asked. “Can I take a longer break?”
“Yes, it is.” replied John. “If you need it, take it.”
“I need it,” Diana responded.
Diana spoke of the difficulty she had swimming through the night. “It almost broke me,” she said. When shark diver Niko, swimming in the water beside her, said “Isn’t this a beautiful day?” She said, “I’m not enjoying it much. I wish I were.”
Diana was eating well, taking several bites of scrambled eggs, saying “Oh, I’ll take that.” when offered some pasta.
Diana’s schedule is now to stop every 40 minutes for feeding.
Happy Birthday, Roger!
Sunday, 10 a.m., Swim time 25:01
At Diana’s 10 o’clock feeding, she popped up her head and said, “Is everybody here?” to the team assembled on her escort boat, Voyager. When most everyone was assembled, she said “Today is Roger’s birthday and we’re gonna sing him Happy Birthday.” Floating on her back kicking, she then led the group in a rousing song.
Update from Navigator John Bartlett at noon on Sunday, Sept. 1, 2013:
“Diana has swum 47.61 statute miles after 27 hours of swimming. Her average speed has increased to 1.76 miles per hour. She is swimming strong and riding the swells which are 3 to 5 feet out of the east behind her. She is getting a little favorable push from the current right now.”
Update reported by Candace as of 2:30 a.m. Sunday Sept. 1: 17th hour 27 min. swim time
Diana doing well and her Voyager escort crew feeling upbeat; glad the storms didn’t materialize. On last feeding Diana said she was feeling a little weak (she can only take in fluids wearing the protective gear). So head handler Bonnie decided to make feedings every 30 minutes till sunrise instead of every hour. (With the rising of the sun Diana tends to always feel stronger; it’s also when she can take off protective suit and mask and feel free of their restrictiveness.) Jellyfish expert Angel is concerned about a possible upswell of jellies around 3 or 3:30 a.m.
Independent Observer Roger MacVeigh said that around midnight Diana asked whether anybody knew she was out here. Roger suggested that we send some news about any media coverage or messages from people on her website to Voyager to pass along to Diana because he thinks it will fire her up even more.
Freighters do pass through these channels and tend to go on automatic while their captains sleep, and they can’t be roused. This happened on one of Diana’s 24-hr. training swims in 2010. Right now there is a ship we’re all looking at—can see only some lights on it. One of the captains in our flotilla got on the VHF radio.
Update addition at 3:30 a.m., 18th hour 30 minutes swim time
Wind has picked up to 15 knots suddenly. Half hour ago larger red light from cabin on Diana’s Voyager escort, probably Angel looking at samples of the water for signs of jellies but not sure. I caught Bonnie on the VHF radio during one of her rare breaks, just wanted to let her know that everybody knows Diana is out here and is pulling for her. We’ve had the website crash a couple of times, don’t know the details, but think it went right back up. Told her when webmeister Alex wakes up he can be more specific about relaying any messages from supporters out there on dry land. Bonnie said Diana’s doing great, they’re busy right now being watchful for critters, but Diana will be glad to know of the support.
“That always gives her lift,” she said, adding, “and try and find out whether Nadal won, will you?” Of course I’m not sure who that is or even if I got the name right—Diana and Bonnie are the fervent sports fans—but is it the tennis open that’s on? Haven’t a clue how I’d find out either, out here in the middle of nowhere with the wind whistling in my ears. Alex is the tech guy, maybe he can find out.
BTW, needless to say? but just to make sure you know, cell phones don’t work out here though our SAT phone sometimes does, when it keeps a charge. It’s something of a technological feat that we’re able to get any word out at all from here. People need to eat and whenever someone turns the microwave on, the computer goes down along with the AC and electricity. Not complaining, only letting you know it’s just us, Dawn, Katie, Alex, and me trying our best to keep you updated on Diana’s progress and the great support work of team members on the five boats following her. No broadcast or print media personnel came on the trip this time—hey Press, having too much fun on your holiday weekend are ye? Oh yeah, well so are we! Just saw our second shooting star.
Saturday August 31, 2013, 11:00 p.m. EDT, Swim time: 14:00
Reported by Candace Lyle Hogan
At about the 12th hour of the swim, Independent Observer Janet Hinkle returned from her shift on Voyager with good news:
“When Diana stops for a nourishment break at 8:40pm, it creates an opportunity (and a necessity) for divers to go in and look in the water, for sharks, for jellyfish, obstacles of any kind. Angel, the jellyfish expert, has a chance to look more closely, too. Diana stopped at 8:40 p.m. tonight, almost 12 hours into the swim, for 7 minutes treading water while she took in sustenance, and nothing threatening was sighted.”
Angel Yanagihara, the jellyfish expert, said, “I’m seeing fire worms but no box jellies.”
“It’s a great night!” a crew member chimed in.
And there’s a correction: a previous quote was correct but it was from Bonnie Stoll, the head handler whose observations carry the most weight of all. She’s been with Diana on every swim of this stage of her life, the most recent three attempts of this 21st century and now this time, the fourth. And it was Bonnie who said at the 11th hour, “This is the first time we’ve ever reached international waters without a crisis.”
But now it’s the 13th hour when I’m writing this and there’s a storm to the east and a storm to the north, one of them just six miles away; whoops, now it’s 4.2 miles away says Captain Jeff. Conditions change so rapidly out here it’s hard to keep up. But fortunately we media folk aren’t the navigators, and we’re assured that’s all is so far manageable (as much as anyone can feel assured when the sky that was full of stars moments ago is now pitch black and the winds have gone up to 14 knots).
Diana, covered from head to foot in protective wear (see video where she describes that) seemed to become disoriented a few moments ago. (Who wouldn’t?!) The red light streamer she follows—it’s all that she can see and with the wave action how consistently well she can see it is anyone’s guess—is attached to a boom above her and the water drags it below her. I watched as the wind picked up and the little red light on her swim cap drifted many yards behind it. Of course, the kayaks, one always to either side of her with their shark shields, also with their own little red lights, kept with her as best they could—how lost and without recourse we would all be without the kayakers, it seems to me. But the Voyager escort boat, with Bonnie steady as a rock, blowing her whistle, calling to the swimmer through the darkness, made an about-face to come beside Diana again and Diana did her part to meet them halfway.
How she does so I’ll never know. How she can see through the mask and goggles in this black night! How can she hear (she can’t) with the water slapping her head and boat motors groaning. How could she call out if she had to within that silicone mask that extends all the way into her mouth? She can’t. But she can follow the streamer, most of the time. She can sense the calm, soulful kayakers who manage to stay beside her, most of the time. And she is connected to Bonnie, all of the time, a connection that runs deeper than the 3200 feet of ocean under her.
Whoa, a crash on our boat as it roils in the waves; it’s the dishes we’re all too busy to clean up crashing in the sink. Shall we call the Voyager to see how Diana’s doing? You bet. Alex de Cordoba, the webmeister, gets on the VHF radio to ask.
“She is doing remarkably well in that jellyfish suit,” reports Ops Chief John Berry. “And she is going at her expected pace in it, which is 47 strokes per minute.”
And now at the 14th hour, even the threat of the weather seems to be dissipating, and the lightning against the black backdrop suddenly illuminating a 360 degree horizon looks absolutely beautiful.
Update from Bonnie
Saturday August 31, 2013, 8:00 p.m. EDT, Swim time: 11:01
Head Handler Bonnie Stoll updated us on how Diana was feeling during her 11th hour of swimming.
“Her attitude is excellent. She’s not her jovial self, per se, and that’s good. We want her to take as little time as she possibly can during these feeds.
“Nobody has seen any jellyfish other than the regular plankton that we’re going to see all the time. So, no, she has not been stung at all.
“She is swimming as strong as she possibly can. She does 51 strokes a minute all day, and with the suit on and the prosthetic mask, she slows down a little bit to about 47 strokes a minute, and that’s just about perfect. So, she’s in good shape.
“One thing none of us has to worry about is her hydration. She is hydrated. We feed her all day as much as possible: a lot of peanut butter, a lot bananas, a lot of bread, a lot of honey, ginger and some energy bars. This evening we started giving her a little pasta to keep her warmer. Hydration all night, all day. She is very hydrated.
Thunder rolling and some lightening to our north northeast. The closest edge of a storm is 4 miles away and moving very slowly. Winds are gusting up to 18 knots and seas are increasing to 2-3 feet. Captains are monitoring the system and thinking positive thoughts. Diana is moving quite well in the conditions while wearing her jellyfish suit.
In the 11th hour of swim, as a brilliant pink glow from a stunning sunset fell over the fleet, we were greeted with news that Diana has now officially entered international waters (12 miles from Cuba).
Chief of Operations, John Berry: “This is the first time we’ve ever reached international waters without a crisis.”
Bonnie reports that “her attitude is excellent.” We’ll have an in-depth report shortly.
My Team has begged me to leave this Cuba Dream (obsession) behind and search for another 100-plus-mile stretch of ocean to conquer.
After thrashing up against the powerful Gulf Stream and its unpredictable swirling eddies, after constantly encountering violent weather that doesn’t seem to be able to forecast, I did take a minute to consider the Maldives, Guam, the Gulf of Thailand.
Alas, it’s Cuba. Cuba, for a lifelong history of reasons, is in my heart. As perhaps impossible as this crossing may be, I still have the resolve to give it One More Try.
The modern version of this stretch of ocean is now compounded with the arrival of the Box Jellyfish, their venom the most deadly in all of our oceans. More people have died from Box stings than shark bites since 1950.
The venom instantly penetrates the bloodstream and nervous system so that the heart, lungs and spinal cord go into paralysis. One is lucky to live through their stings. I’ve lived through, twice now, but am coming back this time with full armor, having learned the hard way that they are out there every single night….and they are brilliant at finding any inch of animal protein in their range.
Last year I had body, feet, hands, and even head (pantyhose) covered. Literally the only square inch exposed of my entire body was the lips. We just couldn’t design a way to protect the mouth and still breathe while swimming. Yet these animals (who can swim at 4mph, twice my speed, and who have 4 sets of eyes), the oldest body-structure animal on our planet….600 million years old…..are brilliant at finding animals to sting and they indeed found my lips.
On both occasions, I suffered the paralysis, the otherworldly sensation of being burned alive.
The second outing we were fortunate to have the world’s expert on these jellies with us. Dr. Angel Yanagihara, research scientist from U of Hawaii, fourteen years now studying the Box, has developed a green gel that greatly mitigates these stings. I was much better off last year, with Angel’s expertise behind us.
Angel will once again be on my boat. And her protocols will be invaluable to both me and the Shark Divers, who literally risk their lives in the pitch black ocean with me through the nights, on Shark Safety duty.
But this year I am adding yet an extra step of protections from the potentially fatal stings.
I have collaborated with a prosthetics genius named Stefan Knauss. Stefan worked for a year to develop this silicone mask for me. Many molds, many tries at the mouth area.
It’s done and it’s a work of art, thanks to Stefan’ ingenuity and persistence.
The mask is tough to swim in. That’s a given. I have to press hard to get the mouth up high enough to avoid a lot of salt water intake. And yet still I do take in quite a bit of sea water because of the narrow opening and not being able to judge where the waves are hitting, as I can without it. It slows me down and tires me out.
Nonetheless, I absolutely MUST go into each full night (probably three of them on this crossing) with the gratitude that my life is not in danger.
Rules for every sport evolve. I will wear the FINIS suit for body protection, along with FINIS booties (no neoprene, as that flotation aid not allowed in the sport). Latex surgeon gloves to protect the hands.
The mask is the first of its kind used by a swimmer. Far from an aid, it is an undeniable burden but it qualifies as protection from literal life-threatening circumstances.
I actually don’t find the extreme hours of the quest as daunting as I once did. Could well take me some 80 hours, not the 60 we used to estimate. But it’s the Box jellyfish, their deadly venom, and the nth degree of invention that we’ve reached to be able to live through them, that keeps me up nights. As grateful as I am to have the mask, I am frankly intimidated, actually scared, to think how burdensome it’s going to be to swim in it all these hours.
I wore the entire set of gear in a swarm of hundreds of Box this past June. As difficult as the swimming was, I was not stung once. Those deadly tentacles could not penetrate.
Every sport evolves. Perhaps swimmers in Hawaii, Thailand, Japan, Israel…and right here in Florida….trying to make crossings where the mighty little Box live….will in the future take a cue from this innovation of mine (Stefan’s)and also make their way through safely to other shores.