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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Swimming In The World’s Greatest Wind Tunnel

The world has such great waterways available for exploration. While the English Channel is world renowned, it takes explorers like Lynne Cox to bring places like Little Diomede to the attention of the open water swimming community.

David Yudovin did the same for Cape Verde as did Paul Lundgren in the Sea of Cortez and Lewis Pugh in the Maldives.

Cindy Cleveland gave reason for swimmers to explore the back side of Catalina while Ram Barkai, Andrew Chin, Toks Viviers, Kieron Palframan and Ryan Stramrood demonstrated that a swim around Cape Horn was possible.

And there are millions of other venues that are waiting for discovery and exploration. Adventurers, mapmakers, and historians know these places exist, but like Lake Baikal and the Florida Strait, until the waterways are attempted to be crossed, the locations have yet to be really and truly discovered. A ride across a lake in a sailboat is not the same as a swim across. A traverse by human locomotion is completely different than a traverse by others kinds of locomotion. The tides, currents, waves, and marine life are much better understood when it is a explored at a speed of 2 kilometers per hour than 20.

It is like exploring a college town on foot versus driving through campus via car. The pace of the swimmer allows for a more comprehensive and thorough understanding and appreciation for what the lake, river, bay or sea offers.

Walvis Bay in Namibia on the southwest corner of Africa is one of those largely unknown places that has yet to be explored on a swimmer's scale. Walvis Bay is a natural harbor that is surrounded by 31,000 square miles of desert. The openness and emptiness of the surrounding environment creates one of the world’s greatest natural wind tunnels.

As the cool Benguela Current rides up the African continent from the Cape of Good Hope along the Skeleton Coast, it meets the desert heat leading to a steady and regular flow of fast-moving air uninterrupted by any terrain or man-made structures.

Swimming in the relentless wind of Walvis Bay would be a marvelous experience. Swimming with the wind would feel like swimming through a narrow inlet where the water around you moves much faster than you are capable on your own. Conversely, swimming against the winds would be feel like a salmon swimming upstream.

Either way, the speed, scope and scale of nature would be a profoundly marvelous phenomena to experience.

Copyright © 2013 by World Open Water Swimming Association

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