On the 25th of August in 1875, Captain Matthew Webb became the first recorded person to swim the English Channel without artificial aids. He was inspired by JB Johnson, who failed to get across in 1873.
He left his job as the captain of a steamship and began training in the Thames. He first attempted to cross the channel on the 12th of August but had to abandon the swim owing to weather. He tried again a fortnight later.
On August 24th 1875 smeared in porpoise oil, Webb dived into the water near Dover’s Admiralty Pier. Twenty-one hours and 45 minutes later he waded ashore at Calais much to the delight of the passengers & crew of the mailship The Maid of Kent, who witnessed his final efforts. Webb recalled in his diary “Never shall I forget when the men in the mailboat struck up the tune of Rule Britannia, which they sang, or rather shouted, in a hoarse roar. I felt a gulping sensation in my throat as the old tune, which I had heard in all parts of the world, once more struck my ears under circumstances so extra-ordinary. I felt now I should do it, and I did it.”
He became a professional swimmer and took part in a number of stunts. In 1883 he disappeared after diving into the Niagara River to swim through the Whirlpool Rapids under the falls. His memorial in Dawley reads, “Nothing great is easy.”
However, on the 25th of August in 2012, the following great photographs were easily shared with the world by submitting them to Saturday Scenes:
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