Rheines Wasser

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The Double Challenge

During the summer of 2014, Andreas Fath broke the world record for speed swimming the Rhine River from its source in the Swiss Alps to its confluence with the North Sea. This 28-day, 765-mile swim was more than an exceptional athletic achievement. Fath took daily water samples that provided an unprecedented look at the quality of water within this historic river.

After that the Furtwangen University (Black Forest of Germany) professor has set his sights on the Tennessee River, which he swam through in its entirety in the summer of 2017. The 652-mile river stretches from Knoxville, Tennessee to Paducah, Kentucky where it joins the Ohio River. For this project, Fath is partnering with the University of the South, the Tennessee Aquarium, the Nature Conservancy, the University of Georgia River Basin Center, the Tennessee Valley Authority, Tennessee State Parks, the Ijams Nature Center, the River Discovery Center, and the Riverview and Lyndhurst Foundations of Chattanooga.

"As a long-distance swimmer, I am passionate about water."

Fath’s endeavor will shed important light on the quality and health of the Tennessee River with the main goal of raising public awareness of water quality in the Tennessee River basin. Daily water samples will be analyzed for pharmaceuticals, pesticides, bacteria, and heavy metals. Fath’s own pioneering technique will be used to detect micro-plastic particles suspended in water, to which numerous contaminants adhere. Additionally, special instrumentation will be attached to the swimmer to permit the location of river sturgeon recently released by the Tennessee Aquarium. This will be the most extensive, interdisciplinary water quality survey to have ever taken place on this river.

"Of course the river will test me, but I’ll be testing the river, too."