The Crossing: The Curious Story Of The First Man To Swim The English Channel

The Crossing: The Curious Story Of The First Man To Swim The English Channel

  • Publish Date: 2001-12-22
  • Binding: Paperback
  • Author: Kathy Watson
  • $48.49
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An affectionate, acutely observed life of Webb that brings his achievement into sharp focus after more than a century of neglect. (Sunday Times, London)

Swimming the English Channel was once thought to be a feat as impossible as reaching the summit of Everest, flying through the air in a plane, or walking on the moon. But in August 1875, an obscure ship captain named Matthew Webb became a world hero. He was the first to accomplish what fewer than six hundred people have done since-swim the twenty-one miles of ice-cold, jellyfish-infested water from Dover to Calais.

The Crossing is the richly detailed story of Webb's swim. Fueled by infusions of cod-liver oil, beer, coffee, and brandy, Webb competed for the honor of being first with a swimmer who sported the latest Victorian invention: a thirty-five-pound rubber survival suit containing ten days' worth of food and water, a headlamp for night paddling, an axe for killing swordfish, and books to ward off boredom. Even more intriguing is what happened to Webb after he made history. Addicted to fame, he hired himself out for ever more desperate swimming feats in pursuit of the money and applause he craved-and died tragically in a crazed attempt to traverse the boiling rapids and quarter-mile whirlpool of the Niagara River.

From Harry Houdini to Evel Knievel to David Blaine, we have long been fascinated by risk-takers. In a fast-moving history of triumph and folly, The Crossing takes us inside the mind of the daredevil.

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