Swimming to Antarctica: Tales of a Long-Distance Swimmer

Swimming to Antarctica: Tales of a Long-Distance Swimmer

by Lynne Cox, Martha Kaplan

Paperback(First Edition)

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780156031301
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 03/07/2005
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 249,548
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.97(d)
Lexile: 940L (what's this?)
Age Range: 14 - 17 Years

About the Author

LYNNE COX has set records all over the world for open-water swimming. She was named a Los Angeles Times Woman of the Year, inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame, and honored with a lifetime achievement award from the University of California, Santa Barbara. She is the author of Swimming to Antarctica, which won an Alex Award. She lives in Los Alamitos, California.

Read an Excerpt

"Please. Please. Please, Coach, let us out of the pool, we're freezing," pleaded three purple-lipped eight-year-olds in lane two.

Coach Muritt scowled at my teammates clinging to the swimming pool wall. Usually this was all he had to do to motivate them, and they'd continue swimming. But this day was different. Ominous black clouds were crouched on the horizon, and the wind was gusting from all different directions. Even though it was a mid-July morning in Manchester, New Hampshire, it felt like it would snow.

Cupping his large hands against his red face, and covering the wine-colored birthmark on his left cheek, Coach Muritt bellowed, "Get off the wall! Swim!"

"We're too cold," the boys protested.

Coach Muritt did not like to be challenged by anyone, let alone three eight-year-old boys. Irritated, he shouted again at the swimmers to get moving, and when they didn't respond, he jogged across the deck with his fist clenched, his thick shoulders hunched against the wind and his short-chopped brown hair standing on end. Anger flashed in his icy blue eyes, and I thought, I'd better swim or I'll get in trouble too, but I wanted to see what was going to happen to the boys.

Coach Muritt shook his head and shouted, "Swim and you'll get warm!"

But the boys weren't budging. They were shaking, their teeth chattering.

"Come on, swim. If you swim, you'll warm up," Coach Muritt coaxed them. He looked up at the sky, then checked his watch, as if trying to decide what to do. In other lanes, swimmers were doing the breaststroke underwater, trying to keep their arms warm. More teammates were stopping at the wall and complaining that they were cold. Laddie and Brooks McQuade, brothers who were always getting into trouble, were breaking rank, climbing out of the pool and doing cannonballs from the deck. Other young boys and girls were joining them.

"Hey, stop it! Someone's going to get hurt-get your butts back in the water!" Coach Muritt yelled. He knew he was losing control, that he had pushed the team as far as we could go, so he waved us in. When all seventy-five of us reached the wall, he motioned for us to move toward a central lane and then he shouted, "Okay, listen up. Listen up. I'll make a deal with you. If I let you get out now, you will all change into something warm and we'll meet in the boys' locker room. Then we will do two hours of calisthenics."

Cheering wildly, my teammates leaped out of the pool, scurried across the deck, grabbed towels slung over the chain-link fence surrounding the pool, and squeezed against one another as they tried to be first through the locker room doors.

Getting out of the water was the last thing in the world I wanted to do. I hated doing calisthenics with the team. Usually we did them five days a week for an hour, after our two-hour swimming workout. A typical workout included five hundred sit-ups, two hundred push-ups, five hundred leg extensions, five hundred half sit-ups, two hundred leg lifts on our backs, and two hundred leg lifts on our stomachs. As we did the exercises, Coach Muritt counted and we had to keep pace with him. Between each set of fifty repetitions, he gave us a one-minute break, but if anyone fell off pace or did the exercises incorrectly, he made us start the set all over again. He wanted to make us tough, teach us discipline and team unity. And I didn't mind that. I liked to work hard, and I liked the challenge of staying on pace, but I detested having to start an exercise all over again because someone else was slacking off or fooling around. Brooks and Laddie McQuade were notorious for that. They were always trying to see how much they could get away with before they got caught. For them, it was a big game. Older boys on the team yelled at them and tossed kickboards at them, but they didn't care; they liked the attention they were getting from the team and the coach. I didn't want to play their game, and I didn't want to do two long hours of calisthenics with them, so I shouted, "Coach Muritt, can I stay in the pool and swim?"

He was wiping his eyes and nose with a handkerchief, and asked incredulously, "Jeez, aren't you freezing?"

"If I keep swimming, I'm okay," I said, and smiled, trying my very best to convince him. I was a chubby nine-year-old, and I was a slow swimmer, so I rarely got a chance to stop and take a rest. But because I just kept going, I managed to constantly create body heat, and that way I stayed warm when all the other swimmers were freezing.

"Is there anyone else who wants to stay in the water?"

"We do," said three of his Harvard swimmers in lane one.

During the college season, Muritt coached the Harvard University Swim Team. He was considered to be one of the best coaches in all of New England; at least a dozen of his college swimmers had qualified for the U.S. Nationals. In the summer, most of his college swimmers worked out with our age groupers on the Manchester Swim Team, and they inspired us by their example. Somehow my parents knew from the start that to become your best, you needed to train with the best. And that's why I think they put my older brother, David, me, and my two younger sisters, Laura and Ruth, into Coach Muritt's swimming program.

Coach Muritt studied the sky, and we followed his gaze. "I still don't like the looks of those clouds," he said pensively.

"Coach, we'll get out immediately if it starts to thunder. I promise," I said, and held my breath, hoping he wouldn't make me do calisthenics.

He considered for a moment, but he was distracted by uproarious laughter, high-pitched hoots, and shouts coming from the locker room.

"Please, Coach Muritt, please can we stay in?" I said.

"Okay, but I'll have to take the pace clock or it's going to blow over-you'll have to swim at your own pace for the next couple of hours."

"Thank you, Coach," I said, and clapped my hands; I was doubly thrilled. I had escaped calisthenics and now I was going to be able to swim for three hours straight. I loved swimming and I loved swimming at my own pace, alone in my own lane, with no one kicking water in my face, and no one behind tapping my toes, telling me I had to swim faster. It was a feeling of buoyant freedom. But swimming into a storm was even better; waves were rushing around me, and lifting me, and tossing me from side to side. The wind was howling, slamming against the chain-link fence so strongly that it sounded like the clanging of a warning bell. I felt the vibrations rattle right through my body, and I wondered if the wind would tear the fence from its hinges. Turning on my side to breathe, I checked the sky. It looked like a tornado was approaching, only without the funnel cloud. I wondered for a second if I should climb out of the water. But I pushed that thought away; I didn't want to get out. I was immersed in unbridled energy and supernatural beauty, and I wanted to see what would happen next.

My world was reduced to the blur of my arms stroking as a cold, driving rain began. The raindrops that hit my lips tasted sweet and cold, and I enjoyed the sensations of every new moment. The pool was no longer a flat, boring rectangle of blue; it was now a place of constant change, a place that I had to continually adjust to as I swam or I'd get big gulps of water instead of air. That day, I realized that nature was strong, beautiful, dramatic, and wonderful, and being out in the water during that storm made me feel somehow a part of it, somehow connected to it.

When the hail began, the connection diminished considerably. I scrambled for the gutters while the college swimmers leaped out of the water and ran as fast as they could into the locker room. One looked back at me and shouted, "Aren't you getting out?"

"No, I don't want to," I said, crawling into the gutter by the stairs. The hail came down so fast and hard that all I heard was the rush and pinging of the stones as they hit the deck and pool. Thankful for the white bathing cap and goggles protecting my head and eyes, I covered my cheeks with my hands. Hailstones the size of frozen peas blasted my hands, neck, and shoulders, and I winced and cringed and tried to squeeze into a tighter ball, hoping that it would be over soon.

When the hail finally changed to a heavy rain, I crawled out of the gutter and started swimming again. As I pulled my arms through the water, I felt as if I were swimming through a giant bowl of icy tapioca. The hailstones floated to the water's surface and rolled around my body as I swam through them. I realized that by putting myself in a situation different from everyone else's, I had experienced something different, beautiful, and amazing.

In the parking lot outside, I saw Mrs. Milligan sitting in her car with her headlights aimed at me. Mrs. Milligan was Joyce's mother, and Joyce was the fastest and nicest girl on the team. Joyce had qualified for nationals a couple of times, and I wanted to be just like her. Once I'd asked her why she was so fast. She'd said that she did what Coach Muritt asked of her. It was such a simple statement, but one that was a revelation for me. If I did what Joyce did, then maybe I could also make it to nationals. I wondered how long Mrs. Milligan had been watching me. When I saw my teammates poking their heads out of the locker room, I knew the workout was over, so I climbed out of the pool.

Copyright © 2004 by Lynne Cox

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or
transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical,
including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval
system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

Requests for permission to make copies of any part of the work
should be mailed to the following address: Permissions Department,
Harcourt, Inc., 6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32887-6777.

Table of Contents

Prologue: A Cold Day in August 1

Beginnings 7

Leaving Home 14

Open Water 27

Twenty-six Miles Across the Sea 40

English Channel 57

White Cliffs of Dover 69

Homecoming 95

Invitation to Egypt 102

Lost in the Fog 124

Cook Strait, New Zealand 134

Human Research Subject 146

The Strait of Magellan 160

Around the Cape of Good Hope 177

Around the World in Eighty Days 194

Glacier Bay 204

Facing the Bomb 224

The A-Team 234

Mind-Blowing 248

Debate 265

Across the Bering Strait 282

Success 302

Siberia's Gold Medal 307

Swimming to Antarctica 314

Afterword 358

What People are Saying About This

Oliver Sacks

Thrilling , vivid, and lyrical, an inspiring account of a life of aspiration and adventure.

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Swimming to Antarctica: Tales of a Long-Distance Swimmer 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 31 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An interesting chronicle of Lynne's swimming accomplishments. I think more enjoyable for swimmers, dedicated athletes than others. If you are looking for a book on what it takes to be #1, this is not it. But if you are looking for an informative and entertaining story of a true extreme athlete, you'll enjoy this book, as I did.
Morgester on LibraryThing less than 1 minute ago
Lynne Cox discovered early that she loved swimming in the elements, and as a very fit swimmer with loads of endurance but not much speed over short swims, she is a natural at swimming for hours in open water. At the age of 14 she began by swimming the Catalina Channel between Catalina Island and Seal Beach just south of Los Angles (26 miles/over 12 hours). She then went looking for more challenges and set world records for the English Channel, was the first woman and one of only 5 people to swim the Cook Strait in New Zealand, and raced in the Nile River. She then set her sights on swimming the Bering Strait between Little Diomede Island and Big Diomede before the end of the cold war on her way to her most extreme swim in the life threatening cold of Antarctica. In the mean time swimming around the shark infested Cape of Good Hope, in Alaska¿s Glacier Bay, across Russia¿s Lake Baikal and in various other spots around the world. I don¿t usually like biography but I was sucked into this book from the first page. Throughout the book Lynne shares her fears, her determination and her triumphs with a humble spirit and with sincere acknowledgment of all the people in her life who have supported and encouraged her to follow her very extreme dreams. A fabulous read!
anotterchaos on LibraryThing less than 1 minute ago
Terrific read; reads quickly, lots of great information about a pursuit I'd never guess existed. A lucky random library find!
dougcornelius on LibraryThing less than 1 minute ago
I just finished reading the autobiography of Lynne Cox - Swimming to Antarctica: Tales of a Long-Distance Swimmer. She is a remarkable athlete with an incredible ability to swim long distances and withstand hours in freezing water. Her accomplishments start in 1971, when at the age of 14, Lynne swam across the Catalina Channel with a group of teenagers from Seal Beach, California. They swam the 27 mile crossing in 12 hours and 36 minutes. She held back waiting for her teammates. But the seed was planted for her bigger adventures.At age 15 Lynne swam across the English Channel and shattered the men¿s and women¿s world records with a time of 9 hours and 57 minutes. When that record was broken, she returned the next year and broke the world record for the English Channel a second time with a time of 9 hours and 36 minutes.She went on to bigger and bigger adventures, breaking more swimming barriers. Her writing is very matter of fact. Sometimes just a brief mention of some crazy swim. The book fails to get at the core of what motivates her and interests her in swimming long distances. Her remarkable achievements carry you through the narrative.The last swim in the book gives the book its name as she swims a mile from a ship to the Antarctic shore. The more interesting swim is across the Bering Strait at the end of the Cold War. She swims five miles in thirty-eight-degree water in just a swimsuit, cap, and goggles from Little Diomede Island in Alaska to Big Diomede Island in the Soviet Union.Although the writing is a bit plain, it is filled with joy and a sense of adventure. All of the tales are stirring and heart-warming. A worthwhile read.
lalalibrarian on LibraryThing less than 1 minute ago
I can't believe I've never heard of Lynne Cox before seeing this book in the library! She's basically awesome and has swum in water as cold as the mid-thirties wearing only a bathing suit. She held the record for the English Channel when she was only 15 yrs old and has since swum in lots of dangerous and cold waters where no one else has gone without a wetsuit. She even swam part of the Bering Strait to promote peace b/w the US and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. After a while hearing about her swims got a bit repetitive, but overall I recommend this book to anyone who likes reading about amazing physical feats. I was really inspired. I think I'll do the fundraiser swim across Buzzards Bay here in MA this summer!
she_climber on LibraryThing less than 1 minute ago
As an adult that doesn't know how to swim, this book made me want to learn even more. I love the strength of her mind and how she didn't have the stereo-typical athletes body, but was able to accomplish such amazing physical feats that helped bring a world together.
bobbieharv on LibraryThing 3 months ago
About all her swims around the world, beginning with the English channel at 15. Mesmerizing at first, but the same thing over and over got tiring.
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Terry Smith More than 1 year ago
I have done some open waters and swim in a chlorinated pool, but what happened in this book makes you think that anything is possible in swimming and in life itself. After reading this book 79 degree water doesnt sound too cold for me.
Tara Mocker More than 1 year ago
This book was awesome it was so exciting and captured my attention. I swim in a pool and i cant imagine how she swims in the oceans with currents and tides and cold water. Awesome book i recconmend it for everyone
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blwertz More than 1 year ago
Read about a woman that defies science and can swim in the coldest waters of the world. Not only an athlete, but a humanitarian, Lynne is able to reach across oceans, lakes and rivers to many different cultures. You will not stop shaking your head at what Lynne has accomplished.
milburnt7c More than 1 year ago
Not everyone can swim (or would want to) in 32-degree water, but Lynne Cox can. Swimming to Antarctica, by Lynne Cox, is an inspiring memoir about a young girl's journey to "swim around the world", and conquer her dreams of swimming in some of the coldest waters on the planet. Each swim she talks about is truly amazing and it leaves you wanting to know more at the end of each chapter. I admire her writing and the flow of her voice in her story. Swimming to Antarctica has an Alex Award and is truly a memorable memoir for ages of 10 and up. Lynne Cox, the author and main character, describes her thoughts and adventures of swimming in lakes, oceans, and rivers throughout the world. When she swims across the Bering Strait, she doesn't know if she will be able to handle the 32-degree water so she takes you deep into details about her problem and solution to the cold sea. I gave this story a 3 star rating because I felt that each chapter was the same struggle, swimming for so long, the cold water, and the crew. There were not many different ideas and stories to really capture your attention. "Oh, yes, I'm so cold. It will feel wonderful. I'm breathing so fast and hard. My body is shivering hard; my muscles are instinctively working to make heat..." Lynne Cox immerses you in her thoughts of swimming in the cold ocean. This quote from the story really is a overall "picture" of all of her swims. All the detail she proposes makes me think she is crazy but in fact mighty amazing. I truly admire her passion and mind to persevere through all of her struggles she has and I would recommend this book to anyone who doesn't give up and likes adventure in their reading.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm not a distance swimmer--I've only done a few sprint triathlons--but I'm somewhat of a distance runner. I know what it's like to run the distances Lynne swims, but I can't imagine swimming them! Her attitude and focus can be applied not only for accomplishing long distance swims (and runs!) but to many other goals in life. The book was full of many amazing moments and was very enjoyable to read!
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