If you happen to be in Istanbul, swim from Europe to Asia. It doesn't take more than half an hour of your time. All you need is a swim suit, a boat to get back and a few friendly witnesses. More or less inadvertently I swam the Bosporus one autumn day in 1953. At the time, Florence Chadwick was in Turkey, getting ready to swim the Bosporus—the strait connecting the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmara—and the Dardanelles, which link the Sea of Marmara to the Aegean. Fred Zusy of the Associated Press and I drove out to the wedding-cake hotel by the Bosporus where Florence was staying.
Zusy, who is built like a walrus but cannot swim, made a proposal: "You swim across and give me a good story. I'll pay for a motorboat, and Florence will come along for glamour," he said.
Florence acquiesced cheerfully, showing not a trace of annoyance that I was going to swim the Bosporus ahead of her.
The water was rough that day and the sky was cloudy. A wild breeze scudded erratically across the gray-blue surface, whipping the contesting currents into a white chop. The Oriental beach seemed a long way off.
My backers took several pictures of me in my bathing suit. Then they rowed out to a hired motorboat and waited for me to dive in.
Hearing me dive but seeing no sign of me, my supporters whirled in their seats. I had passed under them like a submarine, catching them unaware. "Start swimming," called Florence. Zusy cupped his hands and shouted, "And stay on the surface, will you?" He seemed fearful that he would lose me altogether.
I started to swim. I used the crawl, Florence's stroke for conquering the English Channel. The chop, every time I raised my head, kept cuffing me in the mouth. After about 40 strokes, punished for each breath by a wave in the face, I was puffing. To recover wind, I changed to the sidestroke.
When it seemed I must be nearly halfway to Asia, I decided to treat myself to a good long rest. I turned over on my back and floated shamelessly. Even when I floated into a whirlpool, I didn't care. I simply spun round and round, like a ball tossed into a roulette wheel.
This circular method of endurance swimming strained the morale of my backers considerably. I heard the launch draw near, its motor stilled to a quiet mutter. Fumes of gasoline drifted across my face. "Hey, are you all right?" said a voice across the waters. I couldn't think of an answer, so I went on floating disdainfully southward, rotating smoothly, silent and detached, beyond struggle and beyond care. I sensed that my witnesses were not very happy with my performance, but I had ceased to care about their feelings.
I began to see that Asia was not, after all, quite inaccessible. A headland with a castle was coming up on my horizon. I swam toward this promontory as hard as I could. When I was very weary, I took another spin on my back among the comfortable whirlpools. When I looked again, I had floated past the headland, and the castle was traveling steadily north. I had lost my chance.