A BIG­GER SPLASH Who has swum the Helle­spont?

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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.

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