Little Bits of History

Swimming the English Channel

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 25, 2010

Matthew Webb

August 25, 1875: Matthew Webb becomes the first person to swim the English Channel without aid from artificial means. He did so in 21 hours and 45 minutes. Webb was born in Dawley, Shropshire, England, and saved a younger brother, Thomas, from drowning in 1863. He joined the merchant navy at age twelve for a three year stint.

When a man fell overboard in the Atlantic Ocean, Webb jumped in after him in a futile attempt at rescue. He won both £100 and the Stanhope Gold Medal along with hero worship after the story appeared in the local papers. While serving as Captain of the steamship, Emerald, he read of an unsuccessful attempt by J. B. Johnson to swim the English Channel. He left his job and began training. He trained in endurance and to accustom himself to the cold waters.

He made his first attempt on August 12, but was unable to finish. He dove in again at Dover, England, swam a zigzag course that covered 39 miles and came ashore at Calais, France.

To date, nearly 1,200 people have successfully made the English Channel swim. By June 2006, 554 men and 262 women had completed the task. The England to France swim has been done 916 times, while the France to England trip has been accomplished 255 times. Thirty-three people have made both the coming and going trek, while three people have done a 3-way swim.

“Whoever knocks persistently, ends by entering.” – ‘Ali

“Ever’thing we do – seems to me is aimed right at goin’ on. Seems that way to me. Even gettin’ hungry – even bein’ sick; some die, but the rest is tougher.” – John Steinbeck

“Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.” Benjamin Franklin

“Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any one thing.” Abraham Lincoln

Also on this day, in 1835 The Sun began printing the Great Moon Hoax.