Australian Chloë McCardel Begins Her Attempt at World-Record Swim From Cuba to Florida

McCardel takes off on her Cuba to Florida voyage

Australian marathon swimmer Chloë McCardel departed Cuba this morning, intent on accomplishing something that no other swimmer has been able to do unassisted thus far: reach the shores of the Florida Keys.

"I’ve swum the English Channel, and that’s like climbing Everest," McCardel said in a media statement. "But swimming from Cuba to the U.S. is five times as far, and I hope to be the first to do this without the use of a shark cage or wetsuit."

The Cuba-to-Florida trek is legend among marathon swimmers for its seeming impossibility. The approximately 100-mile journey is rife with unpredictable elements, such as the Gulf Stream, sharks, and box jellyfish, whose sting can be lethal.  Australian Susie Maroney successfully completed the swim in 1997, but with the assistance of a shark cage.  British–Australian Penny Palfrey was forced to abandon her unassisted attempt in 2012, and 63-year-old American Diana Nyad has infamously been thwarted by the currents and box jellyfish on each of her four attempts (the most recent in 2012). Nyad recently announced her plans for a fifth try later this summer.

In addition to setting a world record, McCardel hopes her swim will raise funds for cancer research; donations made on her website will go to foundations in Australia and the United States. She is being accompanied on her journey by a support crew comprising approximately 50 navigators, observers, kayakers, shark divers, and medical staff. If all goes according to plan, her team anticipates the swim to take approximately 60 hours. AFM readers can track her progress via GPS on her website and Facebook.

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