A limbless Frenchman planning to make four challenging swims around the world was delayed from starting his epic journey in Papua New Guinea on Monday by a paperwork problem.
Philippe Croizon, who lost both his arms and legs in an electrical accident in 1994, planned to leave the Pacific country’s remote west to begin swimming to Indonesia’s Papua province.
But a delay in official permission has meant that he now hopes to begin the swim – which he will complete with the aid of special prostheses – on Wednesday.
“It’s a problem of getting official authorisation because they consider this project as an activity… it’s not just a question of getting over the border,” Robert Iseni, who is travelling with Croizon, told AFP.
“They want a more consequential document in terms of security and the activity we are undertaking.”
Iseni said the hold up could be political “because we are starting in Papua New Guinea to get to Indonesia”.
“There have been meetings with the authorities since this morning and we are waiting for the response. We are not worried, we are always positive.”
If successful, the team plan to do an initial crossing by boat to check the currents and distances on Tuesday, and then, weather permitting, begin the 20-25 kilometre (12.4-15.5 miles) swim to Mabo village the following day, he said.
The swim – which Croizon says represents the crossing between Oceania and Asia – is expected to take six hours.
Croizon, who swam the English Channel in 2010, hopes to make four swims over the next few months; joining Oceania and Asia, Africa and Asia, Europe and Africa, and Asia to America.
In total he expects to cover about 85 kilometres, meaning he will be in the ocean for about 45 hours.
He faces waters containing sharks, poisonous jellyfish, icy currents and cargo ships but, according to Iseni, was more concerned about the torrid heat of Papua New Guinea.
“He was worried about the heat, it’s very hot,” Iseni said. “Training is very difficult.”
Croizon’s life changed dramatically in 1994 when doctors were forced to amputate his limbs after he was hit by a 20,000-volt charge as he tried to dismantle a television antenna from a house roof.
As he recovered in hospital he saw a television documentary about a Channel swimmer and his ambition was born. He used special artificial limbs with flippers to cross the English Channel.
He is being joined in his 2012 adventure by able-bodied long-distance swimming champion Arnaud Chassery.
If all goes well, the two men will make their second swim in the Gulf of Aqaba from Jordan to the Egyptian coast and follow that by swimming from Africa to Europe across the Strait of Gibraltar.
The most spectacular event will be in August when they attempt the Bering Strait separating Russia from the American continent – a trip of several kilometres in waters close to zero degrees Celsius.