SYDNEY – A limbless Frenchman planning to make four challenging swims around the world finally got his epic journey under way Thursday after sorting out paperwork problems in Papua New Guinea.
Philippe Croizon, who lost both his arms and legs in an electrical accident in 1994, entered the water in the Pacific country’s remote west at 6am (2000 GMT Wednesday) on his way to Indonesia’s Papua province.
It followed several days of delays in getting official permission for the 20-25 kilometre (12.4-15.5 miles) swim to Pasar Skow village, near Mabo, with the aid of special prostheses.
“He’s in the water now and feeling very good,” his spokesman Robert Iseni, who is travelling on the support vessel, told AFP.
“We finally got the permission on Wednesday and he is very, very happy. The conditions are good, there is no wind and he is going slowly but surely.”
The swim — which started from Wutung in PNG and which Croizon says represents the crossing between Oceania and Asia — was expected to take six to seven hours.
Croizon, who swam the English Channel in 2010, hopes to make four swims over the next few months; joining Oceania and Asia, Africa and Asia, Europe and Africa, and Asia to America.
In total he expects to cover about 85 kilometres, meaning he will be in the ocean for about 45 hours, facing sharks, poisonous jellyfish, icy currents and cargo ships.
Croizon’s life changed dramatically in 1994 when doctors were forced to amputate his limbs after he was hit by a 20,000-volt charge as he tried to dismantle a television antenna from a house roof.
As he recovered in hospital he saw a television documentary about a Channel swimmer and his ambition was born.
He used special artificial limbs with flippers to cross the English Channel and is being joined in his 2012 adventure by able-bodied long-distance swimming champion Arnaud Chassery.
If all goes well, the two men will make their second swim in the Gulf of Aqaba from Jordan to the Egyptian coast and follow that by swimming from Africa to Europe across the Strait of Gibraltar.
The most spectacular event will be in August when they attempt the Bering Strait separating Russia from the American continent — a trip of several kilometres in waters close to zero degrees Celsius.