A Frenchman who lost his limbs in an accident braved strong winds and currents to swim from Papua New Guinea to Indonesia Thursday, in the first stretch of a mission to swim between five continents.
Philippe Croizon, 43, who uses prosthetic limbs with flippers attached, took seven and a half hours to make his way from the Papua New Guinea village of Wutung to Pasar Skow in Indonesia’s Papua province.
The 20-kilometre (12-mile) journey, between two points on New Guinea island which is shared between the two countries, was billed as the Oceania-Asia stretch of his challenge which involves three more stages.
“It was very, very hard,” Croizon told AFP as he tried to catch his breath after arriving on the grey and black beach lined with coconut trees in Pasar Skow.
“It took us an hour and a half more than we expected because we had to swim against the currents,” he said, as more than 100 curious villagers gathered on the beach to greet him.
In the first of four challenging swims around the world, Croizon swam alongside the French long-distance swimmer Arnaud Chassery and a Papua New Guinean man named Zet Tampa who joined in voluntarily to show solidarity.
“We swam slowly because we did not have the chance to do a practice run,” Croizon said.
His spokesman Robert Iseni, who is making a documentary of the expedition, said that although the swim went well, the men confronted some obstacles.
“They swam against the wind at the beginning and then in strong currents. But they didn’t have any unfortunate encounters with the jellyfish or sharks,” he said.
The swim had been postponed as the adventurer waited for a permit to enter Indonesia, which he received late Wednesday.
“We’ve done the first stretch. Now we still have three to go,” he said.
Croizon, who swam the English Channel in 2010, has set out on his aquatic journey across the globe to highlight the abilities of disabled people, and to convey a message of peace and solidarity.
Croizon had to have all four limbs amputated after he was electrocuted with a force of more than 20,000 volts in 1994 as he tried to remove a TV antenna from a roof.
While he recovered in hospital he saw a television documentary about a cross-Channel swimmer and his ambition was born.
In June, he will swim from Asia to Africa across at 25-kilometre stretch from the Gulf of Aqaba in Jordan to the Egyptian coast.
The following month, he will link Europe and Africa by traversing the Strait of Gibraltar, passing by hundreds of cargo ships and tankers in polluted waters.
The stretch is 14 kilometres as the crow flies, but represents a 20- to 25-kilometre swim because of strong currents.
In August, he will swim between the islands of Big Diomede in Russia and Little Diomede in the United States in a round-trip swim of around 10 kilometres in frigid waters as low as zero degrees Celsius. -By Levi Cunding