American swimmer Diana Nyad is approaching the US coast in her bid to become the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage.
But it has not been easy and Nyad was “really hurting” as she neared her destination of Key West some 48 hours after she set off from Havana, according to blog updates on her website.
Sixty-four-year-old Nyad is making her fifth attempt at the crossing, a distance of 177 kilometres (110 miles).
Her support crew said she was eight kilometres out (five miles) and they estimate she should arrive in Key West between 4.00 pm and 6.00 pm local time.
Doctors aboard a support vessel said Nyad’s tongue and lips were swollen causing her speech to be slurred, and raising concern about her breathing, the blog reported. Nyad was also “very cold” and had canceled scheduled feeding stops overnight “in the hopes that swimming would keep her warm.”
It was initially estimated it could take up to three days to complete the swim which she started on Saturday, but Nyad was benefitting from a favorable current, her crew members said.
Taking the sting out
This time she has with her a silicone mask to protect her from the poisonous jellyfish that forced her to end one of two attempted crossings last year.
Nyad has said that the custom-made mask slows her and makes it more difficult to breath. On Sunday, she did put on a jellyfish-protection suit, according to information posted on her website. She has chosen not to use the protective mask. Instead, the exposed parts of her face, as well as her hands and feet were slathered with a special protective cream dubbed ‘Sting Stopper’.
Nyad’s fifth attempt to make the crossing comes 35 years after she made her first go at it aged 28 in 1978, when she gave up after covering 76 miles in 42 hours, with the aid that time of a shark cage.
Her long-distance accomplishments include swimming around the island of Manhattan in 1975 and a swim from the Bahamas to Florida in 1979.
The treacherous Florida Straits has been conquered only once, by Australian Susie Maroney, who used a protective cage at age 22 during a 1997 swim. The cage glided on ocean currents and enabled Maroney to make the journey in just 25 hours.
Australian endurance swimmer Chloe McCardel abandoned her quest in June to make the crossing after she was severely stung by a jellyfish 11 hours into her attempt.