After suffering nearly 40 jellyfish stings, overcoming a rotting tongue and some seriously freezing temperatures, 33-year-old Ross Edgley can officially say he accomplished something great. Because on Sunday, after all that trouble, he became the very first person in the world to swim around the entirety of Great Britain.
On June 1, Edgley started his journey in the waters off the coast of Margate. And On Sunday, after 157 days at sea, he returned to his point of departure after a grueling 1,792-mile journey.
“It was so strange,” Edgley told The Guardian when he was back on land, after enjoying a shower and a slice of pizza. “I was just really worried I was gonna stack it and face-plant the floor.”
With his lengthy swim, Edgley, of course, broke a record. But, on the 74th day of his adventure, he also broke the record for the longest staged sea swim, according to the World Open Water Swimming Association. But that glory didn’t come without pain.
Beyond the jellyfish stings, Edgley swam about 12 hours a day and only slept six hours at a time, often less. Wetsuit chafing opened a raw wound on his neck. He tried to protect it with Vaseline and duct tape — to no avail. It kept opening and fusing to his bedsheets while he slept.
At one point during his swim, Edgley’s tongue began to disintegrate due to seawater exposure — a condition known as swimmer’s mouth that involves strips of skin peeling off your tongue, taste buds included. And that made it harder for him to eat even the blandest of meals, which mostly consisted of porridge, noodles, toast, eggs, and baked beans. Though he did manage to eat 649 bananas.
Thankfully, he wasn’t alone in his suffering. During his 23 weeks at sea, Edgley slept on a catamaran with a team of three people who tracked his progress and provided support. For the last mile, more than 300 people got in the water and swam alongside him to usher him back to land.
And he wasn’t just accompanied by human companions. He swam alongside seals, whales, and dolphins, too.
“It was amazing,” Edgley said of swimming alongside a female Minke whale. “But it didn’t end up coming to Margate – I hope she writes to me.”
After five months at sea, Edgley’s body has completely changed. Most of his muscle mass has gone to his shoulders. He told The Guardian, “I’ve got hairier, I’ve got fatter.” He also lost much of the muscle that was in his legs. The tendons and ligaments in his feet have not been in use since the summer.
According to Edgley, his next physical mission is to learn how to walk again. After he gets back on his feet, he told The Guardian, he hopes to plan an adventure that would make swimming the coast of Great Britain “look a bit tame.”