Yesterday Andreas Fath had a tremendous day of swimming the Tennessee River. He did 24 miles, far surpassing his daily goal of 20 miles. As of the end of yesterday, he has 400 miles to go to reach the river’s end in Paducah, Kentucky, where it meets the Ohio River. He is projected to reach his goal by the end of this month.
Another key milestone that he achieved yesterday was crossing into Alabama from Tennessee, where he began his swim July 27.
I caught up yesterday with the TenneSwim’s US Project Director, Professor Martin Knoll of the University of the South at Sewanee. I asked him how things are going for Andreas and the team.
“It’s going really well overall. He has made tremendous progress. However, Andreas has found that this is a very different swim from the Rhine River [which he swam end to end in 2014]. Honestly, the Tennessee River is more of a lake swim than a river swim because there are so many dams along its route. There is minimal river current in the Tennessee River. It’s only about 1 mile an hour most of the time. Even below most of the dams it has been slow. So he has found that challenging, not being able to be carried as much by the river.
“Also the water temperatures have been warm. Very warm, much warmer than the Rhine River. We measured the water temperature at 30.4 degrees Celsius one day [that’s 86.7 degrees Fahrenheit]. The first day in Knoxville was 26 degrees Celsius [about 79 degrees Fahrenheit], and that was very good. But it’s been warmer than that since then. And the heat takes a toll on Andreas.
“He makes a point of taking breaks every 30 minutes or so to eat and drink, and to rest in the shade of our pontoon boat. Sometimes to cool him off we drop ice cubes down in his wetsuit and dump cold water on his head, which he loves actually.”
Are there other challenges? “Waves–both from wind and from recreational boaters on weekends. There have been some crazy big waves from the boaters. Swimming through the waves takes more energy. But Andreas has done a great job of adjusting to these challenges. He really is incredibly resilient. My impression is that he is getting stronger every day–much like the bicycle riders on the Tour de France. On Monday, he swam 12 miles in the morning! That’s swimming at almost a racing pace.”
How is the scientific water-quality sampling going? “The sampling is going ‘swimmingly well,'” Martin says with a laugh. “We are getting all the samples we need, and the logistics with the boat and the team are working well too.
“So overall it’s going very well. Of course you encounter problems, but you just work around them. We built in a rest day this past Sunday, and Andreas cut a swim day short last week so he could speak at the Tennessee Aquarium, so those things changed our schedule somewhat. But otherwise we’re very much on track. And as of today [Tuesday] Andreas’s wife and two sons have arrived to join him, and I know that is a big boost for him.”