Man Completes His Months-Long Dream—Our Eternal Nightmare—and Swims Gowanus Canal

The stink lies beneath.
Placid waters, pungent stink.

As summer 2015 transitions in our minds from a bundle of recent memories to a dull, aching nostalgia, we’ve likely taken quiet moments to lament that which we didn’t manage to do while the weather was still kind of pleasant. Things like trips to Hudson or Cold Spring—predictable, maybe, but very relatable.

Then there is Christopher Swain, the environmentalist who attempted to swim the length of the “toxic cocktail” that is the Gowanus Canal on April 22, 2015—Earth Day—but failed to complete his course due to bad weather. Swain was so driven by this act left undone that, despite the rational thought he otherwise possesses and increasingly unpleasant weather, he took the plunge on Saturday and swam the 1.8-mile length of the gonorrhea-infected superfund waterway, according to the Daily News.

Swain recounted diverse and sundry smelling notes he passed along the way—metal, foam, grass, gasoline, detergent, and solvents—as well “brown spots” and the “sheen of coal tar.” In a more sane moment he described these as “disgusting.”

Swain explained his feat was a means of awareness; maybe this will inspire other people to protect local waterways, he hopes.

Whether or not that is true, what is certain is that not a single additional person needs to perform this outlandish act to convince anyone that the environmental tragedy that is our local canal is positively and truly as contaminated as everyone already knew it to be.



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