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Meet the 'queen' of the Atlantic

[ 2009-02-09 11:48]     字号 [] [] []  
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Jennifer Figge pressed her toes into the Caribbean sand, exhilarated and exhausted as she touched land for the first time in almost a month.

Reaching a beach in Trinidad, she became the first woman on record to swim across the Atlantic Ocean - a dream she'd had since the early 1960s, when a stormy trans-Atlantic flight got her thinking she could don a life vest and swim the rest of the way if needed.

The 56-year-old left the Cape Verde Islands off Africa's western coast on January 12, battling waves of up to 30 feet and strong winds.

David Higdon, a friend of Figge who kept in touch with her via satellite phone, said she had originally planned to swim the Bahamas, but inclement weather forced her to veer 1,610 km off course to Trinidad, where she reached on February 5.

But Trinidad is not Figge's last stop. She plans to continue her odyssey, swimming from Trinidad to the British Virgin Islands, where she expects to reach later this month. The crew won't compute the total distance Figge swims until after she completes the journey, Higdon said.

Then it's home to Aspen, Colorado - where she trained for months in an outdoor pool amid snowy blizzards - to reunite with her Alaskan Malamute. The dog swirled in her thoughts, as did family and friends, as Figge stroked through the chilly Atlantic waters escorted by a sailboat. She saw a pod of pilot whales, several turtles, dozens of dolphins, plenty of Portuguese man-of-war - but no sharks.

"I was never scared," Figge said. "Looking back, I wouldn't have it any other way. I can always swim in a pool."

Her journey comes a decade after French swimmer Benoit Lecomte made the first known solo trans-Atlantic swim, covering nearly 6,400 km from Massachusetts to France in 73 days.

Figge woke most days around 7 am, eating pasta and baked potatoes while she and the crew assessed the weather. Her longest stint in the water was about eight hours, and her shortest was 21 minutes. Crew members threw bottles of energy drinks as she swam. At night she ate meat, fish and peanut butter, replenishing the estimated 8,000 calories she burned a day.

Figge wore a red cap and wet suit, and her only good-luck charm underneath: an old, red shirt to guard against chafing, signed by friends, relatives and her father, who recently died.

The other possession she kept on board was a picture of Gertrude Ederle, an American who became the first woman to swim across the English Channel.

Figge reached Trinidad's Chacachacare Island, an abandoned leper colony, at 5:20 pm. She plans to leave Trinidad tonight. During this brief respite, she has avoided the hotel pool and nearby ocean, opting instead for the treadmill.


1. How did Jennifer Figge get the idea to swim across the Atlantic?

2. What kinds of sea life did Figge see?

3. Who was the first woman to swim across the English Channel?


1. When she was on a stormy trans-Atlantic flight and thought she could wear a life vest and swim the rest of the way if needed.

2. Pilot whales, turtles, dophins and Portuguese man-of-war.

3. Gertrude Ederle.

(英语点津 Helen 编辑)

Meet the 'queen' of the Atlantic

About the broadcaster:

Meet the 'queen' of the AtlanticBernice Chan is a foreign expert at China Daily Website. Originally from Vancouver, Canada, Bernice has written for newspapers and magazines in Hong Kong and most recently worked as a broadcaster for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, producing current affairs shows and documentaries.