Apr 21 2015
One Weird Way to Celebrate Earth Day: Swim the Gowanus Canal
Photo credit: Christopher Swain  via Swimmer and clean water activist Christopher Swain stands in front of the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn.
April 21, 2015
One Weird Way to Celebrate Earth Day: Swim the Gowanus Canal

Category

Environment

File this one under Do Not Try At Home.

Clean-water activist and serial swimmer Christopher Swain plans to celebrate Earth Day this year by dipping himself in the sludgy waters of the Gowanus Canal—and then swimming 1.8 miles.

Swathed in a bright yellow drysuit and “exposure protection gear,” Swain will enter the canal near the Flushing Tunnel and proceed to swim the entire length, all the way to New York Harbor. Along the route, he’ll encounter industrial waste, fuel slicks, sewage, trash, possibly even gonorrhea—and that’s if things go according to plan.

It is thought that Swain will be the first person in history to attempt this feat. Here’s hoping he’s also the first person to complete it, unharmed.

Um, Why?

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The Gowanus Canal is one of the most polluted waterways in the United States. Photo credit: Missy S./Creative Commons.

The purpose of this act is not to freak you out, or encourage anyone else to take a dip (definitely not that). Swain claims he’s actually trying to call attention to the slow federal cleanup of the canal, and advocate for an eventual swimmable waterway.

“It isn’t meant to be a stunt, it’s just meant to be a swimmer imagining a day when everybody can swim it,” Swain told the Daily News. “I don’t think big changes happen unless someone is willing to put themselves on the line.”

This isn’t the first time Swain has taken a swim to raise awareness about threatened waterways. Since 1996, the native New Yorker has also swum the entire lengths of the Columbia, Hudson, Mohawk, Charles, and Mystic Rivers, as well as Lake Champlain, and large sections of the Atlantic coastline of the United States.

The EPA has taken this occasion to remind us that swimming in the canal is not advised:

You Can Watch

For those of you eager to see Swain do his thing, here are the details:

When: Earth Day, April 22, 2015, 12:30 p.m.

Where: Whole Foods Market, 214 3rd Street, Brooklyn, NY 11215 (Park vehicles in WFM lot. Park bikes in racks near store entrance. Gather in Park/Walkway along the Canal, at the outer edge of the WFM parking lot.)

Photo credit: Christopher Swain  via Swimmer and clean water activist Christopher Swain stands in front of the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn.