Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Coated in Grease

A 1968 International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame inductee, Charlotte “Lottie” Schoemmell, was renowned for swimming with thick black grease...and nothing else.

In her grease wear, Lottie swam 251K (156 miles) down the Hudson River in New York in 57 hours and 11 minutes over an 11-day period and swam around Manhattan Island in 14 hours and 21 minutes, both in 1926. She also nearly finished the professional Wrigley Ocean Marathon Swim across the Catalina Channel in 1927.

Time Magazine colorfully describes Lottie's 11-day staged swim down the Hudson:

"Clad in a bathing cap and a coat of black axle grease and nothing else, Mrs. Lottie Moore Schoemmell, a mother, climbed out of New York Harbor into a sheet held by her sister, while whistles screeched and 200 rain-soaked persons hailed her with cheers. She had swum from Albany to the Battery (160 miles) in 57 hr. 11 min., swimming time, beating by 6 hr. 24 min. the record made in 1921 by Mrs. Corson. She lost 4 pounds, used 72 pounds of fat, ate lumps of sugar soaked in whiskey. Having handed Mayor Walker a letter from Governor Smith, she offered to swim back if the Mayor wanted to send a letter to the Governor. Her offer was refused. She comforted her crying children, announced that next year she would swim across the channel "and back," took a bath, ate food enough for two men, and went to a dance with her brother-in-law."

The Life Magazine photo above shows Greta Anderson getting greased down on the French coast before the 1958 English Channel race. Photo by Rose Case/Getty Images.