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Getting personal, perhaps some pics of offspring and relatives are appropriate!
Family Pictures

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Some writing miscellany follows

Copyright 2000
ON THE ORIGIN OF A MYTH (by Diane Richards and Ted Erikson)

There is an ancient Greek myth that suggests Leander swam nightly across the Hellespont (Dardanelles, now) to rendezvous with his beloved Hero. One night he drowned, and a despondent Hero joined him in his fate. So goes one tale of star-crossed lovers, in its first writing by the epic poet Musaeus (5th century A.D.) that influenced Marlowe during the 16th century.

Adjoining, Hero awaits the arrival of Leander after his evening swim across the Dardanelles

Far right, Hero finds Leanderís lifeless body in the morning, floating in the sea. (Reproduction from The World Book Encyclopedia, 1965)

Hero Scene
LeanderDrowned
If this legend has any basis in fact (with the depth and currents this strait has today) Leander must replace Captain Matthew Webb as an icon of swimming! It is near impossible for anyone to swim directly across.....without a considerable walk back upstream. And then to swim back (after a tryst)? However, many poets, authors, and artists created great works from this legend; some so moved that they also swam it ( Lord Byron and Charles Sprawson to name two).
Writing began ~2000 B.C. and thus it would seem that the date of the myth (if true) was before and must have passed down orally through many generations. Now why would two drownings have made such an impression? With recent evidence suggesting a flood(1,2) of low lying regions ~5600 B.C. , Leander, used to wading (swimming was in its infancy then) across a shallow river draining the Black Sea, may have been caught in the onslaught of raging waters during a fateful crossing. Or perhaps he was simply attempting to rescue Hero as all had to flee to higher ground. Either would have been a memorable occasion and seeded an impressive tale to grow through many generations.
In the interests of history (swimming and recent theories on Black Sea flooding by Ballard and others), Ted and his dog Umbra swam the Dardanelles in 1997 which was covered by National Geographic Explorers but not used in their production of WONDRER DOG. It was our swim for love. Although unable to sniff out any origins for the myth or evidence that may date the legend's origin, finding and dating possible remnants of Hero's tower would be a remarkable archealogical discovery and verify that love is undying.
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1. Noah's Flood, William Ryan and Walter Pitman, Simon & Schuster, 1998
2. Bob Ballard finds proof of Noah-like Flood, http://www.com/news/11/111899/ballardflood

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TEDFollowing is a story of the first Bosporous swim in 1995 (unpublished to date) Umbra Head
This is a short story of the first documented canine swim from Asia to Europe across the Bosporus. It adds to the dog Umbra's records already on file with The Guinness Book of Records, and intends to generate public interest in a new arena of canine swimmers as athletes.

TO SWIM A DOG (From Asya to Avrupa)
By Ted Erikson, Copyright August 18, 1995

TurkClips Enlarge

EnlargeIt was the early afternoon of July 22, 1995 in Istanbul, a city spanning two continents. Anchored in the Bosporus near the Dolmabahce Palace, a two-masted 63-foot schooner drifted lazily in the currents. On board, seven people awaited the arrival of a cameraman. The dog Umbra dozed peacefully on the fantail cushions, unconcerned with the historic event about to take place.

For three years I sought the opportunity for Umbra to swim the legendary waters of the Hellespont. Last spring, hope surfaced into reality when England's Rosemary George referred me to Turkey's Dogan Sahin, both being English Channel swimming peers. This gentleman made an offer that was impossible to refuse: under the auspices of his prestigious company, Haci Bekir (maker of Turkish Delight candies since 1777), he would arrange and coordinate details for the first canine swim from Asia to Europe--except that it would be the "Bogazici," instead.

The crew complement of the yacht Nur consisted of Joseph Muhlbauer (Yupi), an energetic young Austrian as Chief Pilot, and his first mate. Others to be involved in this man-canine venture included Dogan Sahin and Ilyas Tunaoglu, a retired Turkish Navy Captain, as official observers, my partner and companion, Diane Richards, the reporter from TRT-TV, and his about to-arrive cameraman. As a stray black puppy wandering the streets five years ago, Umbra was destined for the pound. I intervened and was shaken out of retirement doldrums by this super-charged female of unknown (possible Labrador/Greyhound mix) origin. Reawakening my swimming interests, she also began functions as a service dog for my (increasing) hearing impairment. We are now center stage.

Preparations appeared flawless, although brisk northerly gusts churned currents into a rolling boil. The bobbing Zodiac tied alongside made me wish for less foreboding conditions as the cameraman hailed us. Then, while weighing anchor the anchor did not budge! It was snagged!. "Uh..Oh,!" I though aloud as Yupi tried several deft maneuvers of Nur without success. But Yupi's preparedness and versatility could not be underestimated. He donned SCUBA gear and wetsuit (I was surprized that it was available) and submerged to survey the problem. After agonizing minutes he surfaced, sputtering streams of Turkish words to outline a course of action. "Halat...samandira..." came to mean that he needed "halat" (rope) to lever a sunken "samandira" (buoy) away from the anchor chain. An anxious half-hour passed as he rigged a make-shift pulling system that finally freed the anchor--leaving a portion of the rope to stay with the buoy.

After picking up the cameraman, Dogan outlined the course on a map laid out in the cabin as we journeyed to the start point. Umbra and I would swim from Kandilli on the Asian coast to the Kurucesme Park jetty, a distance of about 3 kilometers, or nearly 2 miles. Approaching the take-off point, I marveled at Yupi's energies as he tied cut rope ends, tuned engines of jet skis stowed on the forecastle, and then stopped to jump into the Zodiac with the cameraman. Gathering Umbra and my swim gear, we scrambled over the rail to be embarked on a rocky ledge shortly before 3 P.M.

In 1991, my prowess as a swimmer was challenged by this female puppy who first splashed awkwardly behind, then began swimming alongside, and finally coursed so far ahead that I sought fins. Through 1992 we paced Nial Funchion for many miles during his training in Lake Michigan to become another successful English Channel swimmer. Introduced to the salty Atlantic in 1993, Umbra was the first canine and the only 3-year-old to ever enter the Ocean Mile swim in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Her name as a pioneer in canine swimming was established by two swims the next year, documented and accepted on file with THE GUINNESS BOOK OF RECORDS; a March 9, 1994 round trip crossing of the brackish waters of the Peace River from Port Charlotte to Punta Gorda, Florida, a distance of 2.4 miles in 65 minutes, and a July 10, 1994 swim from the 68th Street water intake crib across the open and fresh waters of Lake Michigan to the 57th Street Beach, a distance of 2.7 miles in 72 minutes. SPORTS ILLUSTRATED magazine reported her undocumented 5.5 mile training swim in August. Our travels in 1995 incurred training in Florida ponds that contained alligators and in the muddy, fast-flowing Missouri River in Montana. She seemed sufficiently prepared for the foreign waters of the Bosporus, but jet-lag effects from an arduous 12+ hour airplane journey were still being acclimatized. No place for petty concerns, I mused as time for Umbra's sniffing to mark suitable territory ran out. Not so petty, I reflected, anxiously adjusting fins and goggles while sitting on a rocky ledge used as my bidet at the water's edge.

Umbra barks to awake my reverie. With a hand wave to signal our start, I plunge from the ledge with Umbra splashing in directly alongside. A few nips of starting excitement among the bubbles and we set off to add our history to these moving waters that carry alluvial accumulations from the Danube River and the Black Sea into the Sea of Marmara. Since currents follow shorelines, training swims are usually parallel to shore for safety. Here, our heading is perpendicular to the receding shoreline while the drift moves us downstream. Without points of reference, a swimmer (or boat or airplane) cannot identify the local current velocity. Explaining such theories of relatively to anyone, as well as Umbra, is never very fruitful. She dutifully paddles alongside as a water skier skims across our path.

For centuries, canines have shared unique relationships with humans. Heredity has produced the widest variety of size, shape, color, and hair of all animals in the world. Their bondings provide mutual benefits in the seeking of food, shelter, protection, companionship, and love. Most animals can swim for survival. But the canine instinct to retrieve, rescue, or cross waters in pursuit of prey is in sharp contrast to humans who simply swim for healthful exercise or pursue it as a form of competition. For canines (and humans!), does thought and/or feeling provoke action? Like me, Umbra sometimes decides not to swim. Like most Turks, she chooses not to lap tap water. Like most people, she selects a specific area to relieve herself. Swimming here, she opts to hold her head higher than usual to avoid salty and choppy waves. Or on hearing Dogan, is she refiguring our heading? Dogan is shouting at a freighter bearing down on us. "Yol hakki!" (right of way) as Yupi signals us to head more to starboard. Umbra complies as I follow.

Canine physiology is better understood than thought or feeling. But performance factors are deficient. A recent study at the University of Illinois on the athletic heart of sled dogs refers to the only research on swimming dogs conducted in 1932! It is simple to track Umbra's weight (65-70 pounds) and body temperatures (of order 100 F), but heart rates are impossible to measure manually. A Polar Vantage XL heart rate monitor was necessary to record beats per minute (70 +/-10 resting, 140 +/-20 walking, and 240 +/-30 running or swimming). Compared to me, Umbra's pulse rate change is ten times faster (over 100 beats per minute in a 5 second interval) and very erratic. When swimming, her legs paddle three times faster than my stroke rate, while each beat of our hearts move her about a foot and me about a yard.

Again, a ferry passing behind and a freighter coming upstream ahead interrupt. Yupi signals a heading change to port while Dogan shakes his fist at the freighter captain. With some 20 minutes gone, the European coast comes more into focus. Current and wind are combining in ways to make very changeable chops. Umbra holds her head even higher, perhaps seeking an exit point on the seawall. With the jetty in view, I angle more toward shore to avoid being swept past where the current might not allow a return. These worries rinse away as the seawall is reached well upstream. We follow the seawall until the rocks of Kurucesme Park are approached. Umbra leaves me behind to scramble up the rugged rocks. "Basari!" (Success!) A distance of about 3 kilometers or nearly 2 miles in 31 minutes and 12 seconds. Umbra's rewards are a couple of dog treats, some loving hugs, and several pats on the head.
Umbra on NurEnlarge Her regal reception shows contentment with that, and she stretches out on the fantail cushions again. The next day, I compete in the National Olympic Committee of Turkey's annual crossing, The Bogazici '95. It was a course about twice as long as our tandem swim. Among nearly 200 others, I find myself alone, lonely without Umbra, and missing my fins. Lo and behold, while passing by the Nur, Umbra spies me and splashes in alongside. With a nip of encouragement, she surges ahead to lead me up the ladder where I follow to finish second in my age group and to the best female I've ever know. My rewards are a trophy and a medal with a most wonderful reception given Umbra by a surprised crowd of Turkish spectators. One swimmer who beat me, miffed by the attention given us by the media, with good nature proclaims, "Gelecek yil bir kopek getirecegim!" (I bring dog next year!)
Umbra at Point Enlarge>Umbra loves the eyes. Istanbul, we thank you all!

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DianeFollowing is an SdogV story by Diane Richards of The Interlopers, our first video assignment:
At 5:30 A.M. on Friday, August 20, 1999, a group of people gathered at the Jackson Park Yacht Club for their regular early morning swim. This time, however, it would not be in the sheltered cove of 57th Street Beach, but in the true open waters from the 68th Street Crib to the 63rd Street Beach.
Five intrepid souls (2 women and 3 men) shiver in the morning twilight waiting for their escort boats. Finally, and after last minute review, the two teams head out to the crib in the warmth of a glorious sunrise. Accompanying the swimmers are two mother boats (sloops John B. and Polonaise), one kayak, and one canoe. Each sloop carried a crew member, and the Polonaise had one video cameraman. Another camera was set up at the finish on 63rd Street Beach.
The swim was organized by Diana Steele who said she has wanted to do it since the dog Umbra --accompanied by Ted Erikson-- did it in 1994. Diana was in the mother boat and manned the camcorder for that swim. This time, Diana would be in the water, with Erikson doing the taping, and Umbra whining to join the action. The five swimmers had been divided into two teams matched for speed, and they all did a most remarkable thing for open water swimmers: each team stayed together instead of immediately veering in all directions.
After 81 minutes in rough water, team #1 walked out of the water with team #2 following 13 minutes later. At breakfast, hosted by Sharon Hunter-Smith (with cooks Kate and Sarah Hunter-Smith), the success of the venture was toasted and the seeds of plans for a repeat next year were planted.

Three of the notorious Interloper gang (above) organized another group of seven swimmers who, undaunted by a Chicago Park District sign, invaded Lake Michigan at 6:10 A.M. on Friday, September 3, 1999 intent on a mission at Casino Pier, about a mile from Promotory Point. These sunrise swimmers add their reasons to Swim Across America (Charity), Chicago Park District (Fun), and Chicago Big Shoulder's Masters (Competition) swimmers in another video work that is in planned.

And then there are the hearty souls who run or wade into the water at the 57th Street Beach each year for the Annual January 1st Y2K Lake Michigan Dip.
There were over 100 spectators and 25-30 swimmers (or persons who at least got wet) for this Hyde Park event, and we tried to get signatures of all participants on a big cardboard. Only one individual--besides Umbra--went in without benefit of a suit. No arrests were made.
The mild weather may have been partly responsible for the large turnout....air temperature was in the 50s, and the water was 34-35F. Most years the air is colder, but even with the warmer air, there still were ice formations at the shoreline making it tricky getting in and out.
For the most recent 2001 noon dip, there was a foot of snow and most entered the icy waters over a snow bank ice encrusted shore. A short video was made of about two dozen bodies going in and out.
A bonfire, brats, and warm cider were available afterward, and the usual Chilly Chili Party was held at the Erikson-Richards residence. (In addition to his chili, Ted provided his own homemade potent potable: Swedish Glogg.)
More stories to come!

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REVISED & UPDATED 05/10/01

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