Rob vs. The Reef

Terry Roberts
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Corner Brook native preparing for epic swim

Corner Brook native Rob Hutchings plans to swim Australia's Great Barrier Reef in order to draw attention to climate change and the impact carbon dioxide emissions is having on the world's largest reef. The reef is 2,300 kilometres long. Submitted photo

Corner Brook's Rob Hutchings is planning to do something that's never been done - swim the entire length of the Australia's Great Barrier Reef, a distance of 2,300 kilometres.
And he's looking for help from the business community in this province to help him accomplish this incredible feat.
The 33-year-old chiropractor lives Down Under and hopes this epic swim, scheduled to commence in November 2009, will draw attention to the dangers of climate change, and the fact that the world's largest reef system is facing extinction from the effects of carbon dioxide emissions.
There's also a more personal reason for the swim.
Hutchings, a well-known swimmer and triathlete, has always dreamed of embarking on an adventure that was both unique and challenging.
"I felt that an ultra-long marathon swim was how I could best live out that dream," Hutchings wrote in a recent e-mail exchange with The Telegram.
The swim will coincide with the start of an international climate change conference in Copenhagen, and Hutchings will likely get international exposure. There are even plans to establish a video link from the water to world leaders attending the conference.
But it won't be as simple as jumping in the water and swimming for days on end. The reef is infested with sharks, salt water crocodiles, sea snakes and dangerous jellyfish. Endless days of exposure to the hot sun must also be considered.
There's also the distance involved. The reef covers an area the size of Japan, and the swim will be the equivalent of 90 crossings of the English Channel.
The record for the longest ocean swim is held by Martin Strel, who swam for 55 hours straight in the Mediterranean Sea. Strel, from Slovenia, also swam the full length of the Amazon River in 2006. Hutchings is modelling his training and planning after Strel.
Once underway, he plans to swim between seven to nine hours per day, or about 30 kilometres. He estimates the swim will take between three and four months.
Is such an undertaking even possible? Hutchings thinks so.
"Some friends have told me that I'm completely crazy, others have said things like, 'You always seemed like you were meant to do something adventurous.' Some people are indifferent to the idea, and I've been told by some that it is impossible. However, I've always been inspired by people who were told that their dreams were impossible and went and lived them anyway," he wrote.
And he won't be doing it alone. He will be accompanied by an eco-friendly support boat, and a crew that includes chiropractors, doctors and massage therapists. His wife Tansy is also heavily involved in the planning.
Hutchings will swim inside a revolutionary, solar-powered shark cage, with people sitting on the hulls of the cage, giving him food, drink and other assistance. He will also wear a special protective swimsuit.
It's the marine equivalent of climbing Mount Everest, the world's tallest mountain. The big difference, however, is that no one has ever swam the Great Barrier Reef.
Hutchings said he's not an elite athlete, and expects the swim will take a toll on his body and mind.
"I'm really a regular guy who has slightly irregular ideas on ways to have fun," he said.
The main aim of the swim is to call for emission targets necessary to save the world's reefs. A fundraising effort is underway, and Hutchings hopes to enlist the support of companies from his home province.
"I think the debate about whether or not climate change is reality is over. However, we still need to stop burying our heads in the sand and switch to sustainable energy, which we already have the means and technology to do.
"I also would say to any remaining climate change skeptics, rather than arguing with them, that there are many valid reasons why we should stop polluting the air, the water and the land. The impact pollution has on human health alone is more than a good enough reason to change how we generate our power and manufacture products," he said.
Hutchings hopes to recruit a long list of high-profile athletes and other noteworthy personalities to help promote the cause. Funds left over after the swim will be donated to charity, he said.
"I hope to do everything in my power to draw as much attention to the issue so that all of these leaders are at least aware of what I am doing - not for myself, but for the issue," he explained.
troberts@thetelegram.com

On the Web:
www.swimthereef.org.au
www.svpelican.com.au
e-mail: gbrswim@yahoo.com.au

Organizations: The Telegram

Geographic location: Corner Brook, Great Barrier Reef, Australia Copenhagen Japan English Channel Mediterranean Sea Slovenia Amazon River Mount Everest

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Comments

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Recent comments

  • George
    July 02, 2010 - 13:33

    Be careful, there are lots of sharks in those waters. Big sharks. And salt-water crocodiles, and stone-fish, and deadly jelly-fish, etc.

  • Engle
    July 02, 2010 - 13:32

    So, is he allowed to get out of the water to eat and drink??

  • amy
    July 02, 2010 - 13:31

    What you are doing Robert is a wonderful deed, It takes a lot of courage to do what you are doing..Have faith in the Lord and yourself !!!!
    Anything is possible.
    I am living proof

    Wish you a Safe and adventurous journey.

  • Aubrey
    July 02, 2010 - 13:26

    All the best to Mr. Hutchings. No doubt he is aware of the fact that there are more than 100 species of sharks and stingrays in the Great Barrier Reef.

  • Rob
    July 02, 2010 - 13:21

    Thanks to everyone for your supportive comments. To those who were concerned about sharks, jellyfish and other dangers, we have that covered. I'll be in a shark cage and will be wearing a full wetsuit, gloves and boots for stinger protection. We've also got a team of people on the lookout from the boat and the shark cage.

    Anyone interested can contact me on GBRswim@yahoo.com.au or my facebook page which is fully devoted to the GBR swim.

  • Neil
    July 02, 2010 - 13:08

    Rob,

    I always find it amazing hearing about people from your home town doing amazing things. As a geologist I think this is a great way of getting exposure to the endangered nature of our Reefs. Something most people don't know about or is not mainstream. As a really poor swimming, I cannot imagine swimming an hour, let alone 30km/day.

    All the best.

  • George
    July 01, 2010 - 20:22

    Be careful, there are lots of sharks in those waters. Big sharks. And salt-water crocodiles, and stone-fish, and deadly jelly-fish, etc.

  • Engle
    July 01, 2010 - 20:20

    So, is he allowed to get out of the water to eat and drink??

  • amy
    July 01, 2010 - 20:19

    What you are doing Robert is a wonderful deed, It takes a lot of courage to do what you are doing..Have faith in the Lord and yourself !!!!
    Anything is possible.
    I am living proof

    Wish you a Safe and adventurous journey.

  • Aubrey
    July 01, 2010 - 20:14

    All the best to Mr. Hutchings. No doubt he is aware of the fact that there are more than 100 species of sharks and stingrays in the Great Barrier Reef.

  • Rob
    July 01, 2010 - 20:04

    Thanks to everyone for your supportive comments. To those who were concerned about sharks, jellyfish and other dangers, we have that covered. I'll be in a shark cage and will be wearing a full wetsuit, gloves and boots for stinger protection. We've also got a team of people on the lookout from the boat and the shark cage.

    Anyone interested can contact me on GBRswim@yahoo.com.au or my facebook page which is fully devoted to the GBR swim.

  • Neil
    July 01, 2010 - 19:43

    Rob,

    I always find it amazing hearing about people from your home town doing amazing things. As a geologist I think this is a great way of getting exposure to the endangered nature of our Reefs. Something most people don't know about or is not mainstream. As a really poor swimming, I cannot imagine swimming an hour, let alone 30km/day.

    All the best.