News / Europe

1,500 Swim Bosphorus from Asia to Europe

A competitor jumps into the water to swim from Asia to Europe during the annual Bosphorus Cross-Continental swimming competition in Istanbul ,July 7, 2013.
A competitor jumps into the water to swim from Asia to Europe during the annual Bosphorus Cross-Continental swimming competition in Istanbul ,July 7, 2013.
Reuters
Few stretches of water in the world can match the mix of physical challenge and sheer emotional exhilaration that the Bosphorus Strait offers to swimmers making the legendary crossing from Asia to Europe.
 
Competitors in Istanbul's annual Bosphorus Cross-Continental can ponder stunning Ottoman palaces, modern suspension bridges and 500-year-old military fortresses as they navigate currents first celebrated in ancient Greek myths.
 
This year, a record 1,500 swimmers aged 14 to 83 who qualified from nearly 50 countries gathered last Sunday for what is still predominantly a “people's swim” for non-professionals rather than a world-class competition.
 
Turkish authorities shut down the strait, one of the world's busiest shipping lanes, for three hours to allow swimmers time to make the 6.5 km (four miles) crossing. Normally, the only times the Bosphorus closes on a clear day is on the rare occasion a tanker's engine fails or it runs aground.
 
The Bosphorus has more curves than a belly dancer as it twists through the heart Istanbul, a city of more than 14 million people. It is a swirl of competing currents, and the race's challenge is not so much its distance as charting a precise course through the treacherous flow of water.
 
Participants in this year's race could not escape the political turmoil that has rocked Turkey over the past weeks.
 
Some swimmers painted on their bare arms and backs the names of people who died in clashes with police during protests against Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's decade-long rule. The protesters say Erdogan is too authoritarian and illiberal, though he remains popular with Turkey's conservative majority.
 
Erdogan, who has overseen unprecedented economic growth in Turkey and the launch of European Union membership talks, accuses the protesters of trying to destabilize the country.
 
Dolphins and Jellyfish
 
The Bosphorus strait features in the Greek myth of Jason and the Argonauts in their quest for the Golden Fleece and its prehistoric formation may have inspired the Biblical tale of Noah's Ark.
 
The oldest swimmer this year was Levent Aksut, who has competed in all but one of the 25 races since 1989.
 
These days, Aksut swims the backstroke so he can take in the view.

“The best part is looking at my surroundings and watching the seagulls. Sometimes dolphins will join me, tapping me hard and wanting to play,” he said before the race.
 
The race began with a sprint from the seaside village of Kanlica to the middle of the channel in search of the southbound stream. The powerful current can reach up to seven knots and virtually halves the length of the race.
 
Swimmers can see the 15th century Rumelian Castle. Built by the Ottomans in under five months, the fortress aimed to choke off aid to the Byzantines from their Orthodox brethren in Russia. In the end, help never came, and Sultan Mehmet took Istanbul, then known as Constantinople, less than a year later.
 
In the turquoise depths one considers what might lurk as far as 100 meters below.
 
In Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk's novel “The Black Book,” the protagonist imagines the seabed of a drained Bosphorus.
 
“We shall find skeletons of Celts and Ligurians, their mouths gaping open in deference to the unknown gods of prehistory ... amid mussel-encrusted Byzantine treasures, tin and silver knives and forks, 1,000-year-old wine corks and soda bottles, and the sharp-nosed wrecks of galleons,” he wrote.
 
Instead, only the occasional jellyfish or stray plastic bag drifted past. Aksut's dolphins were nowhere to be seen.
 
At the sharp turn at Kandilli, the trick is to stay in the current and avoid getting sucked into bays on either side.
 
The serpentine strait then widens, and swimmers start to disappear. Depending on one's personality, you might think you were either in first or last place.
 
If a swimmer is too far out in the channel they risk being swept past the finish line. Those who overshoot hopelessly struggle back against the current. 
 
Aksut was one who had been drawn into a northbound current but didn't mind. It allowed him to enjoy the water a bit longer.
 
“It's not about how you finish but how much you enjoyed it while it lasted,” he said.

You May Like

China May Be Biggest Winner From Ukraine Crisis

Missile sales, oil and gas shipments are among many areas that may drive Beijing and Moscow closer together in coming years More

Obama Faces a Chaotic World and the Limits of Power

Current foreign policy issues bring into focus challenges for US policymakers who are mindful of Americans' waning appetite for overseas military engagements More

SADC Meeting Lesotho Officials to Resolve Stalemate

Official says regional bloc has been engaged with leaders in Lesotho to resolve political disagreement that led to coup attempt More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid