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Swimming To Antarctica: Tales Of A Long-Distance Swimmer (2005)

Swimming to Antarctica: Tales of a Long-Distance Swimmer (2005)
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Rating
4.07 of 5 Votes: 2
ISBN
0156031302 (ISBN13: 9780156031301)
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English
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publisher
mariner books
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Swimming To Antarctica: Tales Of A Lo...
Swimming To Antarctica: Tales Of A Long-Distance Swimmer (2005)

About book: 3.5. I mean, you cannot contend with Lynne Cox as a swimmer; her feats are historic, epic, crazy. But the structure of the book is a little tired--each chapter takes up another swim, more or less, and much time is spent on logistics and planning and difficulties. Very little time is put into describing the swimming, or to reflecting on just what it is that makes a woman want to swim these distances, and in these temperatures.It's also curious how what begins as a love of open water swimming and distances (English Channel, Bering Strait, etc) becomes much more about withstanding cold--lots of rectal probes, temperature taking, etc. I'd just love to have more reflection, though perhaps that's not a register Cox possesses or a route she wished to take/her editors desired. The few glimpses into her personal life are so fascinating, but they're dealt with so obliquely and quickly...And as a very amateur open water swimmer, myself, I just wished for insight. Depth? She says she passes the many hours swimming by meditating, then leaves it at that?And there may be only one passage where she really allows her descriptive language to transport us into the kind of wonder I desired:“About two hours into the swim my eyes adjusted to the starlight and I began to relax and stretch my stroke out. I felt as if I were swimming through a black-and-white photograph of the sea at night. Without color, the world I swam through was in stark contrast, reduced to luminous blacks, brilliant whites, and tonal grays. Looking up toward the sky on a breath, I watched the brightest stars travel across the heavens as we moved across the sea. Each time I breathed, I looked deeper into space, seeing stars beyond stars. Suddenly I felt as if I were falling upward. Shaking my head, I searched for a star to fix upon, to help me regain my balance. But I couldn’t find one, so I looked down into the deep water. I felt s if I were teetering on the edge of a great abyss. The sky was expanding upward and outward, and I felt I was on the upper inches of the water, and the entire sea was dropping below me.”

When I first heard of the book I was sure the title was figurative and poetic, but it turns out to be quite literal: the author is a distance swimmer who set her goggled sights on the Antarctica and made it happen.What's more, she didn't make a grand production of it; probably wisely assuming that the experience in itself would bring its own grandness. Instead of gearing up in the latest advancement of wetsuit technology or other innovation of the boom in extreme athletic consumerism, Cox kept things as minimal as she could. Seriously kids--she did it in a Speedo.So, I guess one could look at it as a reversal of instinct. Whereas the looming challenge of a polar swim would make even a Minnesotan want to start piling on layers, Lynne Cox stripped hers away to discover what's truly there underneath our varying-degrees-of-learned-toughness exteriors. Which, as I learn more and more each day in my life and in my work especially, is pure titanium-grade resiliance.Cox discusses how there came a point where the issue was less about managing pain and became instead about wrapping your arms around it. It became about acknowledging the incidental reality of pain, or whatever feeling it happens to be, as part of being present in each moment as an alive person who's able to both feel what we need to while being more significant and enduring than any one feeling that forms our experience from one moment into the next.Which really made me wonder: What is my Antarctica? I wanted to discover what it is, for me, that makes me desire immediately the warmth of additional layers, or the comfort of anything familiar snuggly lodged between me and it. It made me question the validity of my comfort zones and which I find truly most scary--that I'll f- things up or that it will be frighteningly awesome when I don't.Those questions were a perfect ones with which to begin a New Year.
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Reviews
sendann
It wouldn't be a stretch to say that I get a little bit excessive in my enthusiasm for some of the books that I read. Fine. This book is INSANE. I actually cringed, gagged, screamed, and closed this book in terror several times while reading. As an athlete I found it deeply motivational and inspiring, in the inhaling the spirit sense of the word. And just as a person, it's so, so well told and exciting. This book is hard to stop reading, like one of those premium cable tv shows you watch all in one night. If you are an athlete of any level, or a person who enjoys adventure tales, or a person looking for motivation to dream massively and be headstrong, you just must read this right now, then we can be friends again. And don't fault her for being what might be considered self involved or name droppy. That's what it takes to do these ridiculous things. A focus on what you are doing, and a lot of help from people who deserve recognition. It's almost funny that those are two things people fault her for. Those people need to shut up. We will never be friends.
Kara
Very fascinating, haven't read a book in quite some time where I constantly said out loud, "This lady is crazy!" Talk about an extreme sport, an extreme body, and an extreme thinker to face these crazy challenges, but for me it was a little beyond just amazing when she's chopping through arctic ice with her hands as she swims, and having friends shoot sharks so they don't attack her. Like I said, crazy! It was an interesting read and kept me intrigued, I'd normally rate it 4 stars for interest, but the writing was more of a 3 for me, just an odd kind of disconnected tone to the book, and so focused on the swimming and details that I didn't get much of a sense of what she was like beyond her swimming life.
Michael
Interesting first person account of the swimming adventures of long distance swimmer Lynne Cox, who swam the English Channel in record time as a teenager and then graduated to other challenging swims, most involving very cold temperatures, such as crossing the Bering Strait and swimming a mile in Antarctic waters. It is an engaging story and makes you think about what motivates an athlete to take on challenges that are not only physically arduous, but are also life-threatening. The book is well-written and absorbing, but very tightly focused on the various swims. There is little about the rest of Ms. Cox's life, except for occasional brief mentions of members of her immediate family. I suppose that a more well-rounded portrait might give one more insight into what makes Ms. Cox tick (even when her body wants to shut down because of the cold), but the book is still well worth reading even without that.
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