• Marathon Swimming

Cairns local conquers 27km Green Island to Cairns ocean crossing

Cairns Medical Student, Harriet Grant, has added to Australian marathon swimming history by conquering the 27km Green Island to Cairns crossing.

Cairns Medical Student, Harriet Grant, has added to Australian marathon swimming history conquering the precarious 27km Green Island to Cairns ocean crossing.

On Saturday, 17 September 2022, Ms Grant and her compatriot, Kaname Woodfield, left Green Island at 7 am with their sights set on Yorkeys Knob in aid of raising funds for AFL Cape York House Foundation through the ‘Swimming the Gap’ movement.

‘Swimming the Gap’ aims to help raise awareness of the gap in the education of young indigenous children from remote communities in the Cape of Queensland.

Ms Grant showed a remarkable feat of endurance, battling strong currents and undertows, sea lice and jellyfish to reach land at 6:14 pm, after 11 hours 14 minutes in the water.

“For my first open water marathon swim, I wasn’t sure what to expect,” said Ms Grant.

“The whole experience was incredible, however, it definitely had its highs and lows throughout the day.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better day with conditions resulting in glassy blue ocean, but there was also a very deceiving current which led to the long hours in the water.”

Grant swimming during a period of idyllic conditions

Unfortunately, Ms Woodfield had to abandon her attempt after nearly 12 hours in the water due to fading light.

“While I really enjoyed the whole day, and it was beautiful, it was disappointing to have to retire,” said Ms Woodfield.

“But, it’s unfinished business and I will be back to try and conquer it again.”

Ms Woodfield after abandoning her swim

While swimming the picturesque crossing Ms Grant and Ms Woodfield encountered some challenging moments, but in true Aussie spirit, they pushed through.

“The last two hours was probably the most challenging part,” said Ms Grant.

“The strong currents really started to set in and my speed got down to 1 km/hour which was not only physically challenging but also mentally.

“Overall we were swept significantly off course throughout the whole day which added 6km to our estimated distance and 4 hours to my predicted swimming time.”

Ms Grant having a feed mid swim

Ms Woodfield was in agreement of the challenges they faced.

“The strong undercurrent was definitely the most challenging part of the day,” she said.

“The surface was like a mirror but underneath the water was just rushing through.

“The sea lice attacks and jellyfish stings were also challenging, I knew I would get a couple but I didn’t realise I would get stung so many times.”

Despite the challenges, Ms Grant and Ms Woodfield both had enjoyable experiences with their favourite part being the environment around them.

“One of the most memorable moments was as we were leaving Green Island and watching the water beneath me change from a beautiful clear turquoise colour with reef underneath to an amazing deep blue,” said Ms Grant.

“I loved the moment when I was in my zone with the movements and rhythm and just feeling part of the big blue ocean, just like the fish swimming around me,” said Ms Woodfield.

Ms Grant mid swim

To prepare for the gruelling swim Ms Grant and Ms Woodfield were swimming up to 40 kilometres a week but Ms Grant found this challenging at times while trying to juggle studying.

“I had to do most of my training in the 25-metre pool in Longreach (a small rural town in Central Queensland) as I was required to go there as part of my university studies,” said Ms Grant.

“Training solo and in a 25-metre pool while doing 10-kilometre sessions was a true test of character, but I got through it.

“The water is my happy place, so every time I got in for a session, I just focused on the session at hand rather than all the other stress going on.

“I was doing 30 to 40-kilometre weeks, with my longest swim session being 15 kilometres,” said Ms Woodfield.

“It was long, cold, lonely and challenging at times but that did help me get through the swim on the day.”

You can donate to Ms Grant and Ms Woodfield’s ‘Swimming the Gap’ fundraiser here.

  • Written by Ocean Swims on 4 October 2022
  • (Updated on 4 August 2023)

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