He made it! On Sunday, 24 August 2014 Professor Dr. Andreas Fath swam into the North Sea at Hook of Holland, successfully completing the final stage of his “Swim for science” which began on 28 July in the Graubünden Alps. And his marathon 1,231-kilometre-long Rhine swim was completed in a record 28 days!
The competitive long-distance swimmer Andreas Fath spent a year preparing himself for the swim. But as the name of the project makes clear, the sporting challenge was not the most important thing for him. While he was swimming, Andreas Fath and his team also took water samples all along the 1,231 kilometres of the Rhine – a form of testing that has never been done before. Together with students from Furtwangen University and partners from industry and scientific institutes, he put the Rhine to the test. And in doing so used some unique methods and instruments – for example a chip which can detect up to 150 micro-organisms, such as pathogens or bio indicators, at the same time. Besides regular testing of the Rhine water, while he was swimming Andreas Fath also collected samples of all the organic materials which he came into contact with in the Rhine by means of a special plastic membrane attached to his calves.
The aim of the project is to raise awareness for the importance of water as a resource and to develop effective methods of protection.
"As a long-distance swimmer, I am passionate about water."
Detailed research results will be presented by the chemistry professor at the “7th Annual Hansgrohe Water Symposium”, hosted by Hansgrohe SE, the main sponsor of the project, on 13 November 2014 in Schiltach in the Black Forest.
Together with his team of Furtwangen University students, partners and research institutes, Andreas Fath will be analysing the water of the Rhine by posing a variety of scientific questions. The water samples taken during the swim every day will be tested for industrial chemicals, hormones, antidepressants, sweeteners, antibiotics, painkillers, drugs, pathogens and microplastics, among other substances. The project team will also measure current speed, pH values, conductivity and the water temperature.
“We expect to collect a great deal of new scientific data,” explains Andreas Fath, “For example, regarding the question of whether the pollution of our oceans by microplastics originates in our rivers.” But also whether the water quality has improved in the last few years.
"Of course the river will test me, but I’ll be testing the river, too."