South African ultra-distance swimmer, Sarah Ferguson, has completed an incredible 516.49km of the 1 500km One Ocean Swim from her home town of Durban through to Cape Town. However, without further donations towards this plastic pollution awareness campaign, Ferguson will have put her dream of achieving this unmatched feat, within a year, on hold.
“I started this journey to alert people to the realities of plastic pollution and show people what can be done to tackle this global problem,” explained the founder of NPO, Breathe Conservation. “I’m swimming through Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) to showcase the incredible coastline we enjoy in South Africa, and am stopping along the way to engage with local communities about ocean conservation and beach clean-up initiatives.”
Ferguson embarked on this adventure on Monday, 21 February from Durban Undersea Club (DUC) and is being accompanied by a team of supporters who are monitoring her progress. She is swimming the distance in stages, aiming for four-to-five-hour swims at a time with rest days every so often. Throughout every stage, Ferguson is actively documenting the experience in videos and infographics which are being shared online. Stats include the distances covered per day, the weather, water quality, number of strokes, marine creatures she’s encountered – and the plastic count.
Stats up until day 21 (Durban to Port Alfred)
· Total swimming time: 82hr 6min
· Total distance: 559km
· Average: 4 hours swimming a day
· Average: 26km per day
· Rest days: 10
· Petrol costs: R60 000
· Fastest swim: 50km in 4hr 37min, averaging 33 sec per 100m or 12km/hr
· Slowest swim: 1km in 26min 56sec
· Longest swim: 6hr 2min 28seconds over 45km
While she’s enjoyed significant encounters with numerous marine life – gannet, hammerhead shark, dolphins and orange jellyfish among them – as well as positive engagements with welcoming communities, the journey is not without its challenges. Some of these include water visibility, as well as rapidly decreasing water temperatures the closer she gets to Cape Town.
However, Ferguson is no stranger to challenging adventures. In 2019, she became the first person to swim around Rapa Nui (Easter Island) and, in 2017 she made history by becoming the first woman from the African continent to complete the 46km Kai’wi Channel between the Hawaiian islands of Oahu and Molokai.
Commenting on completion of day 19 of the swim, Ferguson said: “We have officially finished the first major stage of our One Ocean Swim, and what a ride it’s been! I managed the last 10km in cooler 23-degree water in 2 hours about 3km off the back line before jumping in the boat to meet the most incredible crew from East London. We were given a massive welcome with hot showers and hot chocolate before heading to our home base.
“I am incredibly overwhelmed by the support and love and donations of food, cash, accommodation and encouragement on this journey. It’s been a crazy wild ride but we are here and hope to keep going as soon as possible. Thank you is not enough!”
Speaking on Tuesday, Ferguson said: “Yesterday was our last day of swimming unless we get more funding. The team and I have given everything we have to get this far and want nothing more than to get to Mossel Bay by May. We are doing this for the ocean, not for ourselves.”
Ferguson and her One Ocean Swim team are reliant on the generosity of conservation-minded sponsors to complete this epic journey. The team is aiming to raise around R3 million which will cover all relevant costs to get to Cape Town, as well as funding for educational talks to communities between June and November. During these six months, the team takes a break while waiting for the weather to improve and the swimming to resume.
To support the One Ocean Swim and follow the journey, check out:
To follow Ferguson throughout her year-long journey, you can receive updates on Instagram at @oneoceanswim and on Facebook at One Ocean Swim.