When she looked ahead, Florence Chadwick saw nothing but
a solid wall of fog. Her body was numb. She had been swimming
for nearly sixteen hours.
Already she was the first woman to swim the English
Channel in both directions. Now, at age 34, her goal was to
become the first woman to swim from Catalina Island to the
On that Fourth of July morning in 1952, the sea was like
an ice bath and the fog was so dense she could hardly see her
support boats. Sharks cruised toward her lone figure, only to
be driven away by rifle shots. Against the frigid grip of the
sea, she struggled on - hour after hour - while millions
watched on national television.
Alongside Florence in one of the boats, her mother and
her trainer offered encouragement. They told her it wasn't
much farther. But all she could see was fog. They urged her
not to quit. She never had . . . until then. With only a half
mile to go, she asked to be pulled out.
Still thawing her chilled body several hours later, she
told a reporter, "Look, I'm not excusing myself, but if I
could have seen land I might have made it." It was not
fatigue or even the cold water that defeated her. It was the
fog. She was unable to see her goal.
Two months later, she tried again. This time, despite
the same dense fog, she swam with her faith intact and her
goal clearly pictured in her mind. She knew that somewhere
behind that fog was land and this time she made it! Florence
Chadwick became the first woman to swim the Catalina Channel,
eclipsing the men's record by two hours!