Barmy Scottish swimmers ( Barmy is U.K. slang for pleasantly nuts!) Meg Maitland, Linda Malcolm, Bronwyn Macaskill, Claire Gardner, Jo Lindsay, Jeremy Milne, Norma Loudon and Jo Hood started by jumping off the Bass Rock in the Firth of Forth, Scotland. (That’s not too far off the Arctic Circle – a slight exaggeration!)
The group of swimmers, who battled huge swells, strong currents and stinging jellyfish, are believed to have become the first people to swim between four islands in the Firth of Forth.
The Salty Selkies, as they call themselves (Lunatic Selkies might be more appropriate) who take their name from a Celtic mythical creature which could change from seal to human form – swam for more than six miles (10km) from the Bass Rock to the Islands of Craigleith, Lamb and Fidra. All eight swimmers completed the challenge without having to stop on the middle islands for a rest.
When they reached the end of their challenge at Fidra, the waves made it too treacherous for them to reach the finish line in the harbor, as originally planned.
Mr. Milne said: “When I was told we would need to swim around to the other side of the island I felt exhausted and I wanted to get out. The massive cramps were the most painful part of it and also I had a swollen tongue from taking in gulps of seawater.” (This is for fun??)
Mother-of-two Jo Lindsay was one of the seven women in the team. The 43-year-old said she had not planned to attempt the whole course. She said: “This was a big thing for me because our training swims were in shallow water so it was a mental shift to overcome the deep water. It took my breath away when we jumped off the steps. In our training swims there was always a point to swim for, such as a lobster pot or a buoy, but there was nothing like that on this swim. We had no idea how far we had gone, and each island was difficult to see over the huge swells. I started really questioning what I was doing. I couldn’t see the bottom. Then I saw the lion’s mane jellyfish below me. When you’re swimming in a vast expanse like that it is easy for it to come into your head about the creatures that might lurk in the depths (You think?). I tried to put it out of my mind and to keep swimming.”
The Salty Selkies said they were delighted to complete the challenge. The oldest in the group was 70-year-old former Great Britain triathlete Linda Malcolm, who completed the course 30 minutes before the others. She said: “I feel fitter than I ever have. If you don’t use it, you lose it, and I have always kept it up. I absolutely loved this challenge. It was the farthest I have ever swum and I felt elevated and elated.”
The group were swimming for a mental health charity, the Laura Hyde Foundation (How appropriate!).
Claire Gardner, from North Berwick, said they had kayakers to protect and guide them. They also dropped jelly babies into the swimmers’ mouths. She said one of the highlights was when Uri Geller, who owns the Island of Lamb, tweeted about them passing his island.
Geller also later congratulated the swimmers. (One has to wonder how she knew that when she was swimming at the time…but I digress).
As a point of information, I should add that the stinging tentacles of lion’s mane jellyfish can grow to up to 3m in length and the sting can paralyze you!!
I described this escapade as “the barmy Scottish swimmers”, but I don’t think that word is quite strong enough. I would welcome suggestions for other descriptions.
It’s sort of reassuring, in a way, that there are still plenty of nice nutcases out there.