Five South Africans have become the first in the world to swim around Cape Horn, the southern-most tip of South America, notorious for its treacherous and icy ocean.
Ram Barkai, 53, Toks Viviers, 47, Kieron Palframan, 36, Ryan Stramrood, 37, and Andrew Chin, 41, swam about 2.5km around Cape Horn on Tuesday, 22nd February, wearing only Speedo costumes, caps and goggles. They faced uncertain and dangerous conditions, were pushed by strong currents and rough seas and were subjected to an ocean temperature ranging from 7 to 8°C.
This is the first time anyone has swum around the stormy and icy seas off the tip of South America, known to seafarers as a “sailor’s graveyard,” and the meeting point of the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.
“We’ve done it and we’re all over the moon,” said Barkai, speaking on a satellite phone shortly after recovering from the ordeal. The team had spent the previous night sailing in rough seas on a small fishing boat from Puerto Williams in remote southern Chile, to get to Cape Horn.
“This was completely unfamiliar territory. We were literally swimming at the end of the world. It was daunting. The ocean is very deep, very dark and very cold. The shores are rocky and dangerous. We dived off the boat, near the southern-most lighthouse in the world and swam into a strong current.
“We continued for one hour and ten minutes and by then we were being washed dangerously close to the rocks. The Chilean navy, which supported us, was concerned for our safety and picked us all up in a small boat after we had achieved our goal of swimming around Cape Horn.”
Chin said: “It was mentally incredibly challenging. It was a very confusing swim because of the unchartered territory, strong current and cold. Apart from two of us being sick with flu, we feel elated.”
Stramrood said it was his “most scary, most daunting and most out-of-my-comfort zone swim. We were freezing, disorientated and having a support team speaking a foreign language made things very difficult. But we are happy we have done it.”
Palframan said the swim was “very cold and very confusing. We were so focused, however, that we knew we were going to make it - no matter what”.
The team arrived for an extreme swimming challenge in the Patagonia region of South America just over a week ago and have now completed three of the world’s toughest cold water swims. On 15 February they succeeded in swimming 4km across the Strait of Magellan in Chile in wind gusts of around 60km/hour and in rough and cold water.
Then, on 19 February, surrounded by snow-capped mountains, they completed a 3.2km double crossing of the Beagle Channel, starting near Puerto Williams in remote southern Chile, swimming across to Punta McKinley on the Argentinean coast, and swimming back to Chile.
They will spend the next few days making their way to Buenos Aires, Argentina, where they will mark their achievements at a small function at the South African Embassy.
The team expressed their gratitude for the support from across the world by followers on their Facebook page: www.facebook.com/patagoniaswim.
The team is supported by Speedo SA which is funding a film of the adventure.