While being part of a global effort to save the Dead Sea, Madswimmer set a new world record on 15 November 2016 for doing the lowest swim in history in the Dead Seat at 430 m below sea level. In 2015 they broke Lewis Pugh’s highest swim record when they swam in hypothermic conditions at 5909 m above sea level in the Andes. The Dead Sea swim was the successful completion of their high/low charity swim challenge.
At 5am yesterday morning an international team of 28 swimmers – 10 under the auspices of Madswimmer – set sail on rubber duck boats from the Israeli shore at Ein Gedi to an identified delta across Jordanian borders in the Dead Sea, and started the 16 km swim back to Israel. Weather conditions were perfect and all swimmers arrived back as one team on Israeli territory after 7 hours and 9 minutes.
This was the first group to ever attempt a Dead Sea crossing between Jordan and Israel – despite and amidst very volatile political circumstances. Jordan permitted the crossing of its borders less than 24 hours prior the swim, conditioned nobody steps onto, or take photo’s of their land. The border crossing therefore took place in the waters.
The Dead Sea swim expanded to an international event when Madswimmer joined forces with Ecopeace and the Cyprus Israel Swimmers earlier this year. Swimmers from various countries started to sign up for the swim with the specific aim to draw public attention to the depletion of the Dead Sea. It included swimmers from South Africa, Israel, Palestine, Denmark, New Zealand, Spain and England.
The Dead Sea swim was no small feat. Beside political challenges, swim logistics were hard. Rescue and guiding boats that had to be obtained from local owners and trucked across the Judean desert to the Dead Sea, held a huge risk for the massive earth sensitivities and sinkholes that exist in the area and geologists had to work out a safe route first.
The Dead Sea waters, with a salt content 10 times that of the typical ocean, made for a difficult swim. Most swimmers complained of a burning skin after the swim. Only a few drops of water down their throats could cause severe breathing problems so swimmers used a special facial mask for protection. Breathing with a full face mask was a sombre challenge in itself.
Being the lowest surface feature on Earth and a natural wonder rich in oxygen and minerals, protection of the Dead Sea is a worthy cause. Industrialisation has led to the Dead Sea losing over 1m water per year and it stands a chance to disappear if not intervened. Levels have dropped more than 30 meters over the past 20 years that causes massive sinkholes which have swallowed roads, homes and farms over the years. Ambassadors of the representing countries of all swimmers were invited to the event that was well attended by international media including CNN Reuters, Associated Press, Discovery Channel and Richard Branson’s Virgin Unite. “We trust our swim has kicked off renewed global interest to help save the Dead Sea” says Jean Craven, founder of Madswimmer.
Madswimmer is a group of ordinary South Africans doing extreme swims to raise funds for children’s charities. Although Madswimmer agreed to share the awareness surrounding the depletion of the Dead Sea, all funds raised are committed to its South African children’s charities, including NSRI’s WaterWise Academy.