Whoops, I missed it. This past Thursday, August 8, was the 83rd anniversary of Gertrude Ederle’s English Channel swim. By mere coincidence, I happened on that day to be in Highlands, NJ, where Ederle first learned to swim. Two days earlier I visited the Gertrude Ederle Park, maintained by the Highlands garden club.
Though the view is partially obscured by buildings, the sandy spit of land in the top left of the photo below is Sandy Hook. The Manhattan Island Foundation’s 17.5-mile Ederle Swim, which will take place this year on October 17, commemorates Ederle’s swim from Manhattan to Sandy Hook in 1925; her record of 7:11.30 stood until 2006.
Oddly, the commemorative plaque doesn’t mention the NY-NJ swim. I suppose being the first woman to cross the English Channel is the accomplishment Ederle is famed for, but her “hometown” swim was no paddle in the pool.
We took the ferry from Highlands to Manhattan and back again, covering much the same course as the Ederle swim. The Hudson pours into the Atlantic here, and the water is a confusion of currents and tides and chop and swells and boat wakes and floating debris, plied not only by the high-speed ferries, but also by enormous container ships, cruise ships, and all manner of commercial and recreational craft.
Well, it wouldn’t be fun if it were easy.