Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Channel Swimming Drama

Readers of this blog already know about an adventure a few years ago that was part of the inspiration for this blog. My friend Bill Goding swam from Molokai to Oahu. Heavy stuff. And now while training for the next adventure, a swim from Ko'olawe to Lana'i, the small channel swimming community has sprung into action. Last week Penny Palfry completed a swim from the Big Island to Maui and this past Monday Mike Spalding set out at 3:30 pm from the Big Island headed for Maui, too. Yeah, this is wild stuff especially when you consider the swimming through the night part. Mike's swim didn't turn out so good. Here is an email from Linda Kaiser sent to friends explaining some of the drama:

Mike spalding started his alenuihaha channel crossing at 3:23 monday afternoon. he got into a smoking 3+mph current right off and was flying away from the island. seas werent flat, but it was pretty white caps. lots of whales all over. he fed every 1/2 hour. the feed pole had a bike water bottle cage and a small net attached.the waterbottle had a rope attached. mike swam up, grabbed the bottle swigged and dropped it. i pulled the bottle back in.feedings were less than a minute.we switched paddlers at sunset and attached 2 glow sticks to the
kayak. It was sooo dark..imagin being in a closet with all the lights out. we on the boat had a really hard time seeing the boat, so we turned on the red light on the kayak bow. that worked really well.
we were just about to do the 8:00 feeding, mike had gone almost 10 1/2 miles in 4 1/2 hours. the boat was swinging around when the red light disappeared.we thought that the kayak had flipped...okay, the jaws theme can start...a bit after that the walkie talkie from the kayak yelled...come pick us up! then mike screamed into it pick us up now!!!the boat went to the last place we saw the light and there is mike straddling the kayak. he is shaking . lots of blood in the water. in a nano second mike, bubba, and the kayak are on board.blood everywhere.
we elevated the leg and put pressure below the wound.. okay..the bite was really nasty. i could put my entire fist into the hole. it was a cookie cutter shark bite. they bite and spin, taking chunks of flesh. mike had a bite on his upper belly where the shark bit, but didnt spin. the bad part is his lower calf. i could see all the way into his leg. no flaps of skin, just a hole.
we decided not to air evac him as we stopped the bleeding. it took us 3 hours to get to maui.mike was in a bit of pain, but he had 3 percoset and was doing okay when he left for the hospital.
dr. galpin of maui hospital confirmed it as a cookie cutter shark bite, he is the one that works on all mauis shark attacks.luckily no nerves,tendons,arteries were destroyed. mike is missing a part of his leg, but at least there is still a leg. he is in maui memorial hospital room 303 until friday.
okay..mike and i talked this morning. he looked pale.but is eating ,drinking, and urinating, and doesnt want to be where he is. it will be 3 months at least , out of the water, and no biking or extreme activity.then they might do some grafting. im not sure what they can graft, so he will probably always have a hole in his leg. and he will be weaker on that side.
you know...we always think about this. sharks are out there. we just dont think it could happen to us. mike is lucky. it couldve been a big shark, and he couldve lost his leg or been bitten in half. or bled to death or...but isnt that the chance we all take when we enter the ocean?i think we all say oh, mike..hes crazy and just assume hes invincible.guess what..hes not.but he and i will do that channel, not for at least 3 months!!! see you in the water.


Anonymous said...

I knew it would eventually happen to one of you guys.

Anonymous said...

Mike, hope you are doing better. You are an inspiration to many people. I know you will do this one!!!!!

Anonymous said...

worked with Bill G. yesterday and he told me to google "cookie cutter shark".
what an evil looking creature. deep water bastard that only comes to the surface at night. real nightmare stuff. glad to hear that he survived it pretty good. I myself have seen enough sharks back in my teens and twenties to keep me the hell out of the water at night. nothing braver than swimming open ocean at night. rather swim out to Pipeline on a ten foot day than that.
very brave. good luck.

Kimberly said...

When you start swimming in a channel ike this you know there could be some trouble so I don´t think this took him by surprise. When I travelled to Argentina, I got an apartment for rent in buenos aires in the Atlantic Coast. I knew that even though the water looked calm, it was dangerous so every time i went in there with my children I was extremely careful. We ended up having super nice time and going into the sea like 5 times a day. Anyways, my point is that to enjoy we need to be careful.