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.
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

Turkish Law Gives Spy Agency Controversial Powers

Parliament approves legislation to bolster powers of intelligence service, which government claims is necessary to modernize and deal with new threats Turkey faces More

Video Face of American Farmer Changing

Average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Face of American Farmer is Changingi
X
Mike Osborne
April 18, 2014
The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid