A BIGGER SPLASH Who has swum the Hellespont?
It’s perhaps not surprising that the Hellespont – or the Dardanelles as it is known today – still attracts many swimmers (there is an annual event). To dip your toes into its waters today is to splash about in the depths of literary history. Ovid wrote of the mythical Leander’s nightly return journey to make love to Hero, a priestess of Aphrodite. And Lord Byron (1) regarded his traverse in 1810 as one of his great achievements. Other (slightly less) notables have put on their goggles for glory.
In 1953, the Californian swimming sensation Florence Chadwick
(2) completed a thereand-back (that same year she also swam the Bosphorus, the Strait of Gibraltar and the English Channel). The Irish writer and adventurer Patrick Leigh Fermor swam it at the age of 70, urged on by his wife, Joan, in a boat. The journalist and writer Tom Hodgkinson also crossed it in 2001, and on the 200th anniversary of Byron’s feat, Charlie, a descendant of the poet, took two hours to swim the distance.