Something to rouse you from your afternoon torpor: We saw this on Twitter, billed as National Geographic's photograrph of the year. We could see why, but does it look as implausible to you as it does to us? Maybe we're being too cynical. We did a quick inspection of National Geographic's recent pics and we couldn't find it. But that's not to say it ain't genuine. Spectacular if it is. Check out the magazine's shark gallery for more excitement. If you can find this one, please let us know... Click here
Swims this weekend
- Sat, Feb 24 – Cottesloe-Rottnest Island, Cottesloe, Rottnest Island (WA), Moorpanyal Park (Vic), Taupo, Paraparaumu, Wellington (NZ)
- Sun, Feb 25 – Bondi e, Wollongong e (NSW), Melbourne (Vic), Glenelg (SA)
Haunting, and tragic
Hailed since publication in 1993 as “the best swimming book ever written”, Haunts of the Black Masseur remains Charles Sprawson’s only published work. Now, he’s half way through a follow-up, but age and ill-health have come in the way…
(This report from The Economist, February 1, 2018)
“I write slowly,” Charles Sprawson said last summer, explaining why the sequel to his celebrated debut was not yet finished, “so my books take a long time…Of course, then I got ill.” He was smartly dressed, his hair a wing of white above his broad forehead. “It’s desperate, really. I expected to be here for a few days. It’s been…” He screwed up his face, then continued: “…months.” Now and then he raised his deep, patrician voice to drown the shouts of a patient in the next room.
Mr Sprawson, who is now 76, was in a secure hospital ward in west London for elderly people with mental-health problems. Most of his fellow patients were wheelchair-bound and speechless. The television in the communal room was always on, the volume high. Mr Sprawson longed to be back in his nearby flat, among his books. His memory was smudged around the edges, but he recalled his years of literary glory, a quarter of a century ago, with sparkling clarity. “The problem is,” he said, “all the really good people I knew are dead now.”
His first and (so far) only book, “Haunts of the Black Masseur”, will be reissued later this year. When it was first published, in 1992, it enjoyed the kind of critical and commercial success that most debut authors only dream about. It has inspired and influenced homages and imitations. Mr Sprawson was feted—then forgotten. The story of his career since that triumph exemplifies the caprices of literary celebrity and the indignities of old age. It points to a deeper issue, too: what, in the end, defines a person’s life?
In Byron’s wake
Mr Sprawson was born in Pakistan, the son of a headmaster, went to school in Kent and briefly taught classics in the Middle East. He married, settled in Gloucestershire and raised a family. He became an itinerant art dealer, specialising in Victoriana. On visits to the Channel Island of Jersey, his car loaded with oil paintings, he stayed at the Prince of Wales hotel in Greve de Lecq: it was on the beach and he could swim before breakfast. Along with books, swimming was at the heart of his life.
“Haunts of the Black Masseur” came out of these twin obsessions. The London Magazine commissioned him to write a piece on literary swimmers in 1988; the article was vivid and crammed with learning. Afterwards Mr Sprawson worked the piece into what may be the finest book about swimming ever written. It ranges across the windswept beaches of English seaside towns, Niagara Falls, the landings at Gallipoli (“a swimmer’s war”) and Leni Riefenstahl’s film of the Berlin Olympics in 1936. Its most memorable passages lace between the exploits and reflections of great swimming writers—Rupert Brooke, Lord Byron, André Gide, Jack London—and the author’s own waterborne life.
He tells of the time he heroically swam the Hellespont, and of the (less heroic) time he was picked up by the naval police while attempting to cross the Tagus estuary in Lisbon. He describes childhood dives amid the sunken Greek ruins of Cyrene in Libya:
On Christmas Day we made a ritual of bathing in a natural rock pool, long and rectangular, its sides encrusted with molluscs and anemones, where once Cleopatra and the Romans reputedly swam. The waves broke against one end, and beyond them, beneath the surface, lay most of the remains of the classical city… When we dipped our masked faces into the water there emerged on the corrugated sand mysterious traces of the outline of ancient streets and colonnades, their sanctity disturbed by the regular intrusion of giant rays that flapped their wings somnolently among the broken columns as they drifted in from out of the shadowy gloom of deeper water.
J.G. Ballard said “Haunts” was “an exhilarating plunge into some of the deepest pools inside our heads.” Part memoir, part literary and social history, part personal credo, it gave birth to a whole subgenre of swimming literature. Mr Sprawson recognised something important that animated both his literary heirs and the current vogue for wild swimming: that immersion in water offers a particularly sublime form of escape, out of the material world and into nature. Plunging into it, for him, was at once an adventure in an alien element and a solace, “a return to the security and irresponsibility of the womb”. Recent books from authors such as Philip Hoare, Jenny Landreth, Joe Minihane and Victoria Whitworth could not have been written without Mr Sprawson’s model.
That he was once such a bold swimmer and an exquisite writer makes his later trajectory all the more poignant. After the success of “Haunts” he separated from his wife and became a man of letters. He contributed to the Spectator and the Observer and was commissioned to write a second book, this time about extreme swimmers. He flew to Slovenia to interview an athlete who had swum the Amazon. But he never completed it.
His ensuing decline is, at a simple level, a familiar tale of the trials of age. He contracted throat cancer; then, says Clare Burleigh, one of his daughters and an artist who drew the sketches that open each chapter of “Haunts”, he began to show signs that something else was wrong. “It was little things at first, just forgetfulness,” she says, “then it suddenly became much worse. He couldn’t stay in his flat any more.” That flat is a small, book-filled bachelor pad up a stairway so steep it is almost a ladder. At the end of 2016 he picked up an infection that led to hallucinations. He has been marooned in hospital since.
“All he wants”, says Ms Burleigh, “is to be back in his flat, writing again.” To pay for the home care needed to spring him from what he calls his “incarceration”, his remaining friends tried to secure a grant from the Royal Literary Fund, a 200-year-old benevolent organisation established to help writers in financial difficulty. Its representatives visited him in hospital but, in the end, they turned him down—because he had published only one book, and “quantity is a consideration as well as quality”.
This idea—that leaving behind only a single book, if a beautiful one, is not enough—poses interesting questions about literary posterity. Emily Brontë, Harper Lee and J.D. Salinger suggest a lone classic is indeed sufficient to secure a reputation. But it also points to the difficulty of distilling the essence of a life. Mr Sprawson always saw himself as a writer, and still does, “Haunts” being only the outward evidence of that identity. Others saw him the same way, but only for a while.
Pic from Getty Images
Since last year Mr Sprawson has been moved to another ward. His room is underground and looks onto a sunken courtyard. Some of the other patients are able to talk. “They’re really quite interesting, some of them,” he says. Mr Sprawson himself, though, has grown worse. He is still visited by his daughters and by Margaret Vyner, his lover for the past 15 years. But he has stopped reading. He spends much of his time wandering the corridors looking for a swimming pool, opening broom cupboards in the hope that one will reveal the dapple of shimmering water.
He remains desperate to go home, to return to the manuscript of his second book, which is half-finished and sits submerged in a drawer in his flat. “I’m tired at the moment,” he says, looking out at the wintry view. “Much too tired to write. But I’m getting better.”
From, The Economist, Feb 1, 2018
The Haunts of the Black Masseur, by Charles Sprawson, first published 1992 (Penguin)
We've been wanting to bring this story to you, but absent a credible explanation, we've held off. This creature has been washing up on a few beaches around the joint, including Dee Why in Sydney. This story is from National Geographic...
It might look like something out of a science-fiction movie, but the blue dragon, scientific name glaucus atlanticus, is actually a sea slug.
One of these rare creatures washed up on Broadbeach in Queensland earlier this month, drawn to the shoreline while chasing its favourite prey – the dangerous blue bottle jellyfish.
“Instead of digesting the sting cells, they store them on the outside of their body,” Griffith University marine invertebrate expert Kylie Pitt told the Gold Coast Bulletin.
“They are really weird. They float upside and move around using the water’s surface tension.”
While undeniably beautiful, it’s not something you want to touch. The blue dragon packs a powerful sting.
A master of disguise, its colourful hues provide two types of camouflage. It’s silvery bottom half hides the slug from fish looking up from below and its blue topside offers protection from hungry birds.
Blue dragons are nudibranchs, creatures that shed their shell after the larval stage, and grow to between three and four centimetres.
Pic of a blue dragon eating a bluey by Rachel Stewart in the Manly Daily. If you follow this link, you can watch one of these creatures attacking a bluey. Yayyyy!!... Click here
Following our piece last week about the death of Michael Gordon in a swim at Phillip Island on February 3, we had two interesting contributions to Controversy Corner -
From Peter Kerr
Re Michael Gordon, another risk factor is atrial fibrillation called commonly "swimmers disease"—see Lancet and Dr Tony Freeman at Prince of Wales.
It can normally be identified by racing heart beat, but can also get low rate heart beat AF—which I got and is rare but still has the same result as high rate. Blood accumulates in the upper ventricle, after a couple days clots and heads to the brain -- death.
I only knew I had low rate AF because I swim most mornings in a squad and when I wanted my motor to go a bit faster in a set that morning it wouldn't.
I felt well and healthy but when I got to work in town I went to check it out with my doctor. ECG showed AF, immediately took strong anti-clotting medicine and into St Vincent's the next morning and zapped under a general.
People know when they have high heart rate AF but rarely low rate.
Dr Freeman looks after a number of us water polo players/swimmers and is usually volunteering on Bondi swims. He also does swim treks.
Love your work and agree with your etiquette suggestions.
Fom Brian Munro
Thanks for your very newsy newsletter
On the heart attack issue, we had an incident in March 2017 in Leeton. I have been the organiser and participant in the 24 hour Ms Megaswim in Leeton in 2017. On the Saturday Night, a member of the Bidgee Masters , a 65 – 60 F , who regularly swims in Griffith and the South Coast entered the water at midnight to do her first ½ hour of swimming for the Bidgee Masters team.
After 3 laps of the 50 m pool, she suffered an acute heart attack that required a call to 000 and 2-3 days of hospitalisation in Leeton and Wagga. The patient was on no medications for any medical condition. The final diagnosis, in the end was related back to a myocarditis. As a veterinarian I see animals with myocarditis at times. In these animals it is mostly presumed that the damage is done to the heart muscle by a previous viral infection. Your article that you cited from the NY Times about the flu probably relates to that as a possibility. Most human heart attacks are due to blockage in the arteries and so the article needs to be fine-tuned as to the type of heart attacks that are being increased by the factors you describe.
We also had a willing discussion in Controversy Corner about drafting/bludging/cheating, including a thoughtful contribution by Shane Gould. More of that will come later, but check it out now… Click here
Norris Kellam’s great talent in life was floating. For which he earned the name “The Human Cork". In May, 1933, he attempted to break the world record for staying afloat by floating in a saltwater pool in Norfolk, Virginia, for over 86 hours. Unfortunately, he didn’t make it. After 71 hours and 19 minutes, he was overcome by sharp cramps and sunburn and had to climb out of the pool.
Pointed out by the Marathon Swimmers Federation
Two Bondi swims this weekend
Two? You probably knew of one – the Bondi Bluewater Challenge this Sundee -- but not two. Well, sort of Bondi. The other one is in Wollongong where North Wollongong, the ‘Gong’s most popular city beach, is regarded as “the Bondi of the south”. So, awgies say, if you’re over the crowds of the city, come on down to Wollongong to their version of Bondi for the Basin2Beach swim, also on Sunday.
This will be the 7th iteration of the Basin2Beach, offering three distance options from 400m to 2km. But this one, awgies point out, has free parking.
“We’re keen to champion the ‘get out of Sydney’ vibe and join a swim offering spectacular location, free parking, services as baggage and unique and great swim experiences,” says awgie Rob Battocchio.
The 800m and 400m offer the younger or novice swimmer a safer “harbour only swim – perfect to encourage a first time swimmer friend”.
Battocchio says the event is also supporting fund raising for a local lad with a terminal illness. Caleb Clarke, 4, of Stanwell Park, has an ultimately fatal neurological disorder, Infantile Neuro Axonal Dystropy (INAD). Caleb’s dad, Sam, is swimming in the 2km swim on Sunday as part of a global campaign by families of suffers of this condition, to raise awareness worldwide.
Race day entry is available from 7:30am till 15 minutes prior to each swim at City Beach Surf Life Saving Club.
North Beach, where the main swim finishes, offers cafés and amenities. It’s known locally as “Bondi of the south”.
Unlike Bondi of the city, Wollongong has a back-up option if things go awry on swim day and conditions prove too difficult: they can switch courses to Wollongong boat harbour.
Online entries close at 2pm on Saturday, February 24. More info and enter online… Click here
Photograrph by David Helsham @glistennr
Blue water at Bondi
Back oop north, Bondi offers a 4km beach run along with its 1km and 2.1km swims around Bondi Bay, and a new multi-discipline event for Nippers.
Bondi might be a big city beach, with all the ups and downs that that entails, but it’s colourful and fun. The expression “the passing parade” might have been invented for places such as Bondi, where you can sit on the promenade on the beach watching life go by, and you’ll never grow bored.
Swimming is always interesting, too. Unlike Bondi’s other swims (at North Bondi), this event is run for the world’s second-oldest surf club, Bondi Surf Bathers Life Saving Club, from the centre of Bondi beach, which means it offers a beach break with all that that entails at both ends of the swim.
Bondi’s is a typical beach break. It’s always interesting: shifting banks, gutters, rips, edge, and in between the swim course follows a Marie Antoinette champagne glass shape out towards Mackenzies Point, up towards Ben Buckler, and back into the finish in the centre of the beach.
It’s a lovely swim, and an interesting course that offers everything that an ocean swim in Sydney can pose, apart from rounding a headland. Short of that, you visit two of the most famous headlands in Strã’a in Mackenzies and Ben Buckler. You’ve got it all.
Online entries close at 3pm on Saturday, February 24. More info and enter online… Click here
Spots open up in Tonga
We thought we’d pretty much run out of space on our three oceanswimsafaris to Tonga to swim with whales in July-August, but a couple of punters have pulled out and we now have a couple of rooms available in our second group (July 24-Agust 1), and our third group (July 31-August 8). If you’re wondering what it’s like to swim with whales, check out our video from last year’s oceanswimsafaris in Tonga… Click here
We also have a few rooms left at our most exotic location, Sulawesi, to where we’re running two oceanswimsafaris in 2018, June 12-21 and June 20-29.
Sulawesi is right out of left field: it’s one of the most beautiful locations you’ll ever bvist, but we’ll wager that, unless we took you there, you would never even hear agout it, let alone visit. We try to find locations that will surprise you and Sulawesi is a fine example of that. Water is profoundly clear with lots of sea life, dramatic landscapes and local culture, and extra-sensory food. We also throw in a day tour around the mountain hinterland, and whitewater rafting. It’s an obscure location, with very few Strã’ans going to Sulawesi, remarkably for it’s so close to us, and easy to access. We go via an overnight in Singapore, then it’s a single flight from there to Manado, in the far north of Sulawesi.
Find out more and book… Click here
Grimseys, Foster coming to Mana Fiji
We’re particularly excited this year, because we’ll be joined on Mana Island by three of the best and best known ocean swimmers in the world, Trent and Codie Grimsey, and New Zealand’s Brent Foster. You’ll get to swim with the world’s best.
Beware of imitations
Be aware, there is a rival event launching in Fiji later this year. Don’t be confused by the new one. The Mana Fiji SwimFest runs on one of the most beautiful swimming islands near the outer reef in Fiji’s Mamanuca island group. With the rival event, you'll be staying on the mainland (where the water is coastal, estuarine and unpleasant) and involves bussing and ferrying every day to and from swim locations. That's ok if you fancy spending part of each day of your Fiji holiday on a bus or a ferry. But not so good if you’d rather be in some of the world’s best swimming water or stretching out by the beach, drifting of to sleep by the wafting lilt of breeze through the palm fronds.
ReCap loss at Malabar
Nothing to see here, sadly
Swim ReCap awgie Marc Westius was left totes devo at Malabar last Sunday, after council workers at the end of the day collected his bins full of used swim caps -- bins, caps, signs and all -- and threw them in the truck with the rest of the day's refuse. Marc actually spoke with the council chappie who did it, he says, and the bloke reckons he didn't notice the signs on the bins, or what they contained, or anything unusual about them. No quarter given: they're all gone.
Marc toils long and hard over his ReCap campaign. But Marc feels he's the one who's let down all those who've donated their used and otherwise unwanted caps.
Luckily, as it were, it was one day's caps; there are hundreds or thousands more that Marc's already collected and recycled to good use. But it was also the loss of the bins, signs, and the posts to which the signs were attached -- all of which Marc has financed himself -- which were themselves attached to the bins, that really hurts.
We're building a new shopping cart
Sorry, our shopping cart is down temporarily... We're building a new one... Rather, someone is building it for us.
In the meantime, if you'd like to buy our merchandise, such as View goggles or other swim gear, tow floats, oceanswims cossies, etc, we can still process your order manually. The old shopping cart still is there, so you can browse that to work out what you'd like, then contact us by email. Some prices have changed a little from the old cart (suppliers change their prices, which means we must review ours).
We can work it out.
To contact us and to order... Click here
Fine ocean swims calendar in NZ
For NZ swims, there is a new website run by former fine ocean swimmers tallies winner Mike Cochrane which is a simple calendar of swim events around the nation. We'll list swims coming up in this newsletter, as well, but to plan ahead, check out Mike's calendar for a comprehensive list of NZ swims... Click here
Swims open to online entry
- Feb 25 - Bondi (NSW, 2km, 1km)
- Feb 25 - Wollongong (NSW, 2km, 800m, 400m)
- Mar 4 - Freshwater (NSW, 1.5km)
- Mar 12 (Mon) - Port Noarlunga (SA, 2.5km, 1.5km)
- Mar 18 - Balmoral (NSW, 1km, 5km, Relays)
- Mar 25 - North Steyne (NSW, 1km, 2.8km)
- Mar 31 - Nowra-Culburra (NSW, 1.9km)
- Mar 31 - Terrigal (NSW, 2km, 1km)
- Apr 1 - Pacific Palms (NSW, 1.5km, 600m)
- Apr 8 - Avalon (NSW, 2.5km, 1.5km, 1km)
- April 8 - Coogee (NSW, 800m, 1km, 2.4km)
- April 8 - Forster (NSW, 3.8km, 500m, 250m)
- April 8 - Shellharbour (NSW, 400m, 1.2km)
- Apr 28 - Warriewood (NSW, 1.9km swim/run/swim)
- April 29 - Caves Beach (NSW, 1.5km)
- May 20 - South Head (NSW) 11km)
- Sep 9 - Hervey Bay (Qld, 500m, 1km, 3km)
- Dec 8 - Coogee-Bondi (NSW, 4.5km)
New... Nowra-Culburra (Mar 31), Pacific Palms (Apri 1), Forster (Apr 8), Mona Vale-Warriewood (Apr 28), Coogee-Bondi (Dec 8)
In the works... mtc
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