Jellyfish and hammerhead sharks forced Penny Palfrey, a 49-year-old British grandmother, to end her attempt yesterday to swim the stretch of water between Cuba and the Florida Keys. Over the past few days, the news media all over the world has been abuzz reporting on Palfrey’s long-distance swimming attempt across the Florida Straits, the same straits which have claimed the lives of an untold number of Cubans who desperately tried to escape the tyranny and slavery of the Castro dictatorship. Although tens of thousands of Cubans (some estimates place the number of lives lost at over 100,000) have perished in those very waters, the news media has never paid much attention to these disturbing and horrifying statistics. But when a British grandmother attempts the same voyage, suddenly, it is interesting.
Palfrey ends bid for record Cuba-Florida swim
KEY WEST, Fla. (AP) – A 49-year-old grandmother and veteran endurance swimmer scuttled her quest early Sunday to become the first woman to swim unaided from Cuba to the Florida Keys, unable to close the gap on the last 26 miles of a more than 100-mile ocean odyssey.
Penny Palfrey had fended off painful jellyfish stings while keeping an eye on hammerhead sharks as she attempted the crossing without a shark cage. But her support team said the tricky currents of the Florida Straits proved to be her biggest obstacle, thwarting her achingly close to her goal.
All told, the British-born Australian athlete had been swimming nearly 41 hours since plunging into balmy waters near Havana, Cuba, on Friday to start out. She was about three-quarters of the way into her swim when she gave up the effort about midnight, just 26 miles south of Florida’s Key West.
Her crew tweeted few details early Sunday of the end of her quest but said: “Penny Palfrey had to be pulled out of the water … due to a strong southeast current that made it impossible for her to continue her swim. Penny is presently on her escort boat being taken care of by her crew.”
“She is fine,” Andrea Woodburn, one of the team members, confirmed by telephone from Key West.