It seems all the rage these days to invent and label swim bucket lists: there are “The Seven Oceans” and “The Triple Crown” to name just two.
So locally we invented a new global bucket list which until recently had been achieved by only six local swimmers: John Conroy, Jennifer Hurley, Mike Harris, Steven Black, Joe Donnelly and Ned Denison.
One needs to “escape” by swimming from three prison Islands! The most famous such prison islands are of course Alcatraz in San Francisco and Robben in Cape Town.
The “Escape from Spike Island” swim is an increasingly popular open water swim on the Cork calendar – and it was of course a prison island for many decades. Each year more than 25 swimmers walk into the sea from Spike Island, swim past Haulbowline Island, cross the shipping channel and exit up the long stairs just below the Cobh Heritage Centre.
A visitor to Cork in the summer of 2011 was going to miss the Spike swim on 7th August – so he arranged a private adventure – and completed the swim from Spike Island to Cobh. At 12:23 pm on 25 June 2011, Gary Emich joined the “The Triple Crown of Prison Swims.” For open water swimmers, Gary is known as Mr. Alcatraz. Over the past 18 years Gary has recorded 801 Alcatraz swims and his log book was recently requested for permanent display in the International Swimming Hall of Fame. Gary was also one of the swim organisers who helped commercialise the Alcatraz swim. Each year more than 7,000 swimmers attempt the swim (similar in distance at 1.25 miles to the Spike Island swim), with more than 90% completing the swim.
4 members of The Triple Crown of Prison Swims
L-R: Ned Denision, Steven Black, Gary Emich and Mike Harris
After the swim Gary said: “Great swim, it reminds me of the early days of the Alcatraz swims. As Spike becomes more of a tourist attraction, I can see the day when hundreds or swimmers will come to Cork annually for a great swim.”
Gary’s third swim was a 19.7km swim from the prison island of Australia to the prison island of Rottnest!