Sea crossings details

Over the 20th century and even before, some of those prison islands were built to isolate political prisoners and the most infamous criminals.
During the 21st century, the prisoners gave up their place to the tourists and those old incarcerations sites became a real challenge for the swimmers wishing to confront themselves to the cold waters and the strong currents.

1-Alcatraz Island (USA) Achieved on June 10th, 2000

alcatrazItinerary: from Alcatraz to the Aquatic Park of SF
Distance: 2.4 km
Sea conditions: strong currents, abundant marine life, and 12°C water
A bit of history: the penitentiary complex of Alcatraz is a prison built on an Island on San Francisco’s bay. It was a military fortress from 1850 to 1909, then a military prison from 1909 to 1933 and finally a high security federal prison from 1934 to 1963. Alcatraz’s reputation is international because of the presence of famous prisoners such as the Chicago gangster Al Capone. 

2- The Castel of If (France) Achieved on June 28th 2003

Chateau d'IfItinerary: from the castle to the beach of Prado in Marseille
Distance: 5 km
Sea conditions: very strong wind. This crossing is called the challenge of Monte-Cristo and it occurs every year in June since 1999.
A bit of history: built in the 16th century on a small island of the archipelago Frioul at the center of Marseille’s harbor, this castle essentially served as a prison during its 400 years of official use. It is today known worldwide thanks to Alexandre Dumas’ novel, “Le Comte de Monte-Cristo”.  

3- Fort Boyard (France) Achieved on June 13th 2009

Fort Boyard nageItinerary: from the Fort Boyard to the beach of Minimes in La Rochelle
Distance: Raid solo of 18 km
Sea conditions: strong currents
A bit of history: built as a military fortress in the 19th century, the fort was transformed into a prison only a few years after its completion. It served as a prison for the Prussians soldiers of the French-Prussian War of 1870, then for the political prisoners of the Commune such as the journalist and politician, Henri Rochefort.  

4- Robben Island (South Africa) Achieved on May 3rd 2014

robben-island swimItinerary: from Robben Island to Blouberg Beach in Cape Town.
Distance: 7.5 km
Sea conditions: cold water about 12°C and an abundant marine life.
A bit of history: Robben Island has been used as a prison, a leprosarium, a psychiatric hospital, and a military spot of defense. In the 20th century, the black opponents to the apartheid system sentenced to long terms were incarcerated there, notably three future South African presidents (Nelson Mandela, Kgalema Mothlanthe and Jacob Zuma).

5-Spike Island (Irland) Achieved on August 31th 2014

Spike-island swimItinerary: from Spike Island in Cock’s port to Cobh.
Distance: 1.8 km
Sea conditions: strong currents and cold water
A bit of history: the island sheltered a monastery, a fortress and a prison. The prison served as a detention place for prisoners of the IRA during the Irish war of independence and gained the reputation to be the “Ireland’s Alcatraz”. After the Anglo-Irish treaty, the prison became a correctional establishment for young people from the 80’s to 2004.

6-Levant Island (France) Achieved on October 11th 2014

ile-du-levant2Itinerary: from Levant Island to a beach in Hyères.
Distance: 23 km
Sea conditions: strong wind
A bit of history: On the Mediterraneen French island off the coast of the Riviera, near Toulon. From 1861 until 1878, the island was a pententiary for young offenders and orphans, of whom 89 died here. A plaque (located on the military part of the island) commemorates them.

7- Sainte-Marguerite Island (France) Achieved on October 12th 2014

Couv_Vue_aerienne_Fort ste marguerite Itinerary: from Fort Royal Sainte-Marguerite to Lido Beach in Cannes.
Distance: 1.3 km
Sea conditions: strong wind
A bit of history: Fort Royal Sainte-Marguerite is in the Mediterranean Sea, opposite Cannes by 1km, which was used as a military prison and where the famous Man in the iron mask was held captive 1687 to 1698.

8- Rottnest Island (Australia) Achieved on February 21th 2015

rottnestIsland SwimItinerary: from Cottesloe beach on the continent to Rottnest close to Perth.
Distance: 19.7 km
Sea conditions: strong currents and abundant marine life
A bit of history: from August 1838 to 1931, the island served as a penitentiary establishment for aborigines of the continent convicted for cattle rustling, fires or stealing of vegetables. We estimate a total number of aborigine prisoners of 3700 who spent time on the island. During the two World Wars, the island served as a prison for enemies.

9- Devil Island (French Guiana) Scheduled for 2015

Iles-du-SalutItinerary: from Saint-Joseph Island to a beach in Kourou.
Distance: 14 km
Sea conditions: strong currents and abundant marine life
A bit of history:  Devil’s Island is the third largest island of the Îles du Salut island group in the Atlantic Ocean. The penal colony was controversial for it had a reputation for harshness and brutality. Prisoner-on-prisoner violence was common, tropical diseases were rife. Only a small minority of broken survivors would return to France to tell how horrible it was and scare other potential criminals straight. This system was gradually phased out and has been completely shut down since 1953. Nowadays the islands are a popular tourist destination.

10- Gorée Island (Senegal) Scheduled for September 2015

goree Dakar nageItinerary: from La Voile d’Or beach in Dakar to the Island of Gorée.
Distance: 5.2 km
Sea conditions: more than 500 participants and a 29°C water
A bit of history: the island shelters the old “slaves prison” and the fort of Estrées. The “House of Slaves” is a historical structure, built in the 18th century and served as a temporary prison until the forced ejection of Africans towards the pro-slavery territories. The fort of Estrées is citadel built between 1852 and 1856. From 1940, it was used as a civil prison until 1976.

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