After two and a half hours of swimming, I had reached the final stage of my odyssey.
(The Cyclops? The Walled City of Troy?)
Just my swim across three beaches.
(It would have taken less time to read Homer’s Odyssey.)
Yes, but Homer was blind.
So how did he write an epic if he couldn’t see?
(Enough distractions. Did you make it to the end?)
I was in the Lower Bay of Brooklyn looking out into the ocean. Forget the Manhattan Ferry and the fishing boats. Out there is where the oil tankers sit on the water like floating cities. They looked so close, that I could almost reach out and touch them. That was the danger of lacking a shoreline to gage distance.
I was stuck between Scylla and Charybdis as I pressed on in a swilling current.
It is an idiom from Greek mythology meaning the lesser of two evils.
(In that case, why didn’t you just say “between the devil and the deep blue sea?)
That would have been more topical.
At that moment, I felt exactly like Dory, from Disney’s “Finding Dory.” All I could do was just keep swimming.
It was just me, alone floating in a swilling current that could have smashed me against the rocks or swept me out to sea.
I may have embellished...a little, but I was going to have to fight to turn right and follow the coastline as it receded from my right side.
I do not advise novice swimmers to make this swim.
I was swimming on the other side of the world, but my goal from the beginning had been the lighthouse on the end of the island, which I referred to as “the lighthouse at the end of the world.”
When you swim out towards the ocean, the horizon is the end of the known world.
(I now understand why Columbus’s men thought...)
Well, that’s not true.
By around 500 B.C., Pythagoras had started telling his fellow Greeks that he believed Earth was round, not flat.
(So, Mr. “A square + B square = C square” believed “something,” that’s nice.)
It wasn’t until about 240 B.C., when Eratosthenes devised a clever method of estimating its circumference, that it was learned just how big the planet was.
Eratosthenes hired a man to walk from Alexandria to the city Syene, both in Egypt.
(You want to run that, don’t you?)
Maybe bike it. Anyway, the distance is about 800 kilometers. Eratosthenes then measured the angle of a shadow cast by a stick at noon on the summer solstice in Alexandria, and found it made an angle of about 7.2 degrees. He realized that if he knew the distance from Alexandria to Syene, he could easily calculate the circumference of Earth.
(And that formula is?)
7.2 degrees is 1/50 of 360 degrees, so 800 times 50 equals 40,000 kilometers.
(Who says there are no practical applications for geometry?)
Columbus’ problem was his crew were about to stage a mutiny because the trip was taking too long.
He told people the trip was only 2,400 miles when in fact he knew was close to 3,000.
(Why would he do that?)
He felt that if he had told them that they were taking a 3,000 mile journey, they would have mutinied.
(Looks like he was right all along.)
The sun had found its way out from behind the clouds. Its rays reflected off the tall apartment building of Sea Gate. The waves were even stronger here and required more effort to stay on track.
I could feel my body being pulled out to sea. I wanted to avoid swallowing even more water in high waves while avoiding the glare coming off the buildings polished windows. I no longer felt as if I were swimming in rough seas, now I was pulling myself forward in Poseidon’s bathtub.
That is when I caught sight of my goal. Between the private houses of Sea Gate, the lighthouse peaked out like a shy child. Now more than 500 meters from the coast I pointed my hands towards the shy child.
I continued to insert my digits into the rolling waves. I was almost there.
As I came around the corner, my GPS watch switched over from tracking meters to flashing “3.1 miles”.
I looked up and “the child” smiled at me.
My fingers touched the sandy bottom of the shore and I stood up.
(How long did the whole trip take?)
Two hours, 48 minutes.
(Why so long?)
Got into a fist fight with a shark.
(A real shark?)
Actually, I had been swimming into the current.
I was now ashore, but I had to climb boulders covered in seaweed.
One wrong step and my head would wind up where my feet had been. I was standing in front of “the lighthouse at the end of world” and no one would have found me.
David Roher is a USAT certified triathlon and marathon coach. He is a multi-Ironman finisher and veteran special education teacher. He is on Instagram @David Roher140.6.
He can be reached at [email protected]
By David Roher