KEY WEST (CBSMiami/AP) – The fourth try was not the charm for endurance swimmer Diana Nyad in her attempt to swim from Cuba to the Keys.
Tuesday morning just before 1 a.m. she was pulled from the water; she was about 50 miles off the coast of Key West. She arrived in the Conch Republic just before 5 p.m. and addressed reporters and well-wishers.
“I’ve been dreaming of this crossing for 35 years now and tried it four times. And should I say that there’s no disappointment? No,” she said. “I’m not going to get that moment I dreamed of for so long.”
A team member, Vanessa Linsley, said the swimmer was battered by a rough night and was unsure if she would be able to finish the 103-mile crossing.
“Instead of getting hit with one doozy they got hit with three,” Linsley said, “They got hit with the weather, they got hit with the jellyfish and they got hit with the sharks all at the same time.”
Nyad, who turns 63 on Wednesday, had been expected to arrive somewhere in the Florida Keys early Tuesday, but her team said she “lost six hours progress” in overnight storms Sunday.
This was Nyad’s third attempt since last summer to become the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage. She also made a failed try with a cage in 1978.
After Sunday night’s storm, Monday offered far more ideal conditions, with blue skies and level seas and the Gulf Stream offering beneficial currents.
Nyad’s team said the swimmer’s spirits were lifted Monday afternoon by a surprise visit from a boatload of friends and family. And Monday evening, she found herself swimming among dolphins, a far happier scenario than the sharks that were feared.
“The skies are clear, the sun high in the sky,” crew member Brandon Beach wrote on Nyad’s blog, calling it “a pretty gorgeous day out here in the middle of the ocean.”
Still, the swimmer’s crew was improvising ways to prevent hypothermia and to fend off further swelling of her lips and tongue. Though she’s swimming in 85-degree waters, because that is lower than the body’s core temperature, it will reduce her body temperature over time. Her team said she had been shivering.
“We all know her mind can handle it,” Candace Hogan, a crew member traveling with Nyad, wrote on the swimmer’s blog. “But there will always be a point where a human body can’t go any farther. What no one knows is where that line is drawn in Diana Nyad.”
Australian Susie Maroney successfully swam the Straits in 1997, but she used a cage. In June, another Australian, Penny Palfrey, made it 79 miles toward Florida without a cage before strong currents forced her to abandon the attempt.
Nyad has already endured jellyfish stings on the current attempt. Stings forced her to cut short her second of two attempts last year as toxins built up in her system.
She has been training for three years for the feat. She was accompanied by a support team in boats, and a kayak-borne apparatus shadowing Nyad helps keep sharks at bay by generating a faint electric field that is not noticeable to humans.
It is unclear if she will make another attempt.
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