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24 August 2009

On this day in history: First man swam across the English Channel, 1875

Matthew Webb was born at Dawlish, Shropshire, on 18th January 1848 to a country doctor of the same name and his wife, Sarah. By the age of eight, Webb had learnt to swim in the River Severn below Ironbridge. He continued to swim after joining the merchant navy gaining a reputation for strength and stamina.

After reading a newspaper report about an unsuccessful attempt to swim the English Channel, Webb gave up his career in the merchant marine and dedicated himself to swimming full-time. Webb spent months training on the south coast developing his slow and steady breaststroke before making his first attempt to swim the Channel on 12th August. He made it over halfway across before rough seas forced him to abandon the attempt.

At just after 1pm on 24th August 1875, Webb dived off of the Admiralty Pier at Dover at set off. Cheered on by the passengers and crews of passing ships, he finally arrived near Calais after spending nearly twenty-two hours in the water swimming a zig-zag course of around 39 miles. He returned to Britain as a hero.

Fame brought fortune to Webb, but his generosity resulted in him returning to swimming. He took part in endurance races, but the strain was beginning to tell. In 1880 he embarked on another great stunt, swimming across the Niagara downriver from the Falls; unfortunately, the current proved too strong and Webb was drowned.

Related posts
Blondin crossed Niagara Falls on tightrope, 30th June 1859
First crossing of the English Channel in an autogyro, 18th September 1928

3 comments:

SANDY said...

Just got you added to my links, still figuring out how to do things a bit with my new computer. Thanks for adding me to your list, it's appreciated. I see we're both do follow blogs as well, so thats an added bonus for us too.

Dropped while here this am, but haven't yet checked into EC to see if yesterday's problems have been resolved.

Loved the article this am, I always wonder about people who are able to give a job in order to follow a quest...how do people live without income? I had read previously about the crossing, but didn't know he had drowned later at Niagara.

Learning something new is always a good way to start the day. Sipping coffee, trying to wake up; need to see if I can get some things posted in a bit. Took quite a while yesterday trying to get some things loaded, photo software being one of them. Fun to upgrade computer, but then you have so many things that aren't compatible anymore...software wise.

Have a great week, swing by later for a visit, hopefully I'll have a new post by then. lol

Sandy

Earn and Invest Money said...

Hi,
I am a frequent visitor of your blog because of adgetize and to be honest i like your posts here too. They are part of our history and I did not know until I read them here in your blog. Thanks.

Stepterix said...

Thanks for the comments people.

Sandy: I can only assume that Captain Webb was independently wealthy. I will check out your blog forthwith to see what you have been writing about lately.