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“Colonel, did you every doubt you would make it?” “There was a while there, yes,” answered the soldier in a quiet but strong American drawl. In the 45 years since this exchange, no one else has ever stood on the shores of northern California and been asked that question, having succeeding in swimming from the Farallone Islands, roughly 30 miles west of San Francisco. There are few islands or bodies of water less inviting for a swim than the Farallones. The islands, aff ectionately known as The Devil’s Teeth, sit at the northern-most point of the Red Triangle, an area recognized for some of the largest and most voracious great white sharks in the world. If that is not enough to discourage recreational bathing, the islands

were also a dumping site for radioactive waste, from 1946-1970. Before this, the islands' vast seabird population created a booming egg trade for the growing population of San Francisco in the mid-1800s, which culminated in the 'Egg War' between rival private companies, and eff ectively ended the private occupation of the Farallones in 1863.

The islands became a US National Marine Sanctuary in 1981, but it

was in the 1960s that some of the world's top marathon swimmers began showing the islands some love. In 1963 a growing number of swimmers began boating out to the

Farallones, before briefl y stepping foot on the beach and splashing off towards the California coast but by 1964 15 had failed to complete the crossing. In 1966 the famed English Channel swimmer, Ted Erikson, arrived in San Francisco to make his own at empt, on the heels of greats such as Leonore Modell, Greta Anderson and local legend, Ike Papke. Erikson fell in with the famed San Francisco Dolphin Club swimmers, whose ranks still know the waters of northern California bet er than anyone. Despite a wealth of local knowledge Ted’s two at empts in 1966

failed, aſt er admirable six- and ten-hour eff orts. The Hawaiian waterman Ike Papke waited until October of 1967

before making his at empt. Papke nearly topped them all, but he was stopped by severe hypothermia, just 1.1 miles from the mainland. As the 1966 at empts came to a close, one man was already well into his preparation to mount his own bid. That man was 40-year old Lt colonel Stewart Evans, stationed at the nearby Presidio military base. A life-long swimmer, Lt colonel Evans was a US Army supply

offi cer, who served in WWII, Korea and Vietnam. His 20-hour 1953 Catalina Channel crossing, combined with years of military discipline, had taught him the value of meticulous preparation and training, and he brought all that to bear on his Farallones at empt. Evans' intention to conquer the Farollone challenge was fi rst made known to his wife, Pauline Worrell, in 1965. At that time, Worrell, from Hull in Yorkshire, England, had been married to Evans for three years, and she recalls that when they fi rst arrived that year in San Francisco, they stopped on the Golden Gate Bridge, and gazed out across the waters spread before them. Her husband's gaze was fi xed on a jagged collection of islands in the far distance. “Stu pointed out to the Farallones," recalls Worrell. "He casually commented, ‘That is a famous swim that no one has done, and I want to do it.’” As part of his year-long training regimen, Evans would log lunchtime swims in front of the Dolphin Club, while pouring over nautical maps and tide charts in the evenings. At the height of his


Lt colonel Stewart Evans, clad in a 10lb cocktail of grease and linament, pictured before he entered the water on his extraordinary Farollone islands swim


Dodging great whites and giant jellyfish, in 1967 Colonel Stewart Evans became the first person to swim from the Farallone Islands to mainland California. His son-in-law, Bruckner Chase, tells the story…

Farallone Arch


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