Woman battles through jellyfish and sharks for world record swim

Jasmine Harrison swam 900 miles from Land’s End in Cornwall up to John O’Groats in Caithness.

Woman becomes first to swim length of Britain from Land’s End to John O’Groats after battling through jellyfish and sharks Simon Price / Firstpix

After swimming through thousands of jellyfish, being followed by a shark, suffering from ‘salt mouth’ and encountering a live military exercise, a 23-year-old woman has become the first to swim the full length of Britain.

Jasmine Harrison swam 900 miles from Land’s End in Cornwall up to John O’Groats in Caithness.

She began the challenge on July 1 and completed the swim shortly before 5pm on Tuesday, October 18 where she was greeted by her dog Bonnie, and parents Susan and Keith.

Jasmine, originally from Thirsk, swam between four and twelve hours a day often in two shifts for 110 days in total, broken up by eating and sleeping in her support boat.

Her longest swim was 12 hours, and the maximum distance swum in any one shift was 14 nautical miles – about 16 miles – with 27 nautical miles (31 miles) being the most she covered in one day.

Much of her swimming took place at night under moonlight, with the dark concealing unnerving surprises such as the approach of a massive whale which swam only a metre below her.

During her challenge, the new record holder contended with numerous difficulties including cold water, busy shipping lanes, painful chafing from her wetsuit and ‘salt mouth’, a condition which strips skin from the tongue and throat and makes it hard to swallow, as well as the mental challenges of the swim.

Jellyfish proved one of the most difficult obstacles, as she suffered multiple stings to her face, hands, and feet. 

She sometimes wore a neoprene mask fashioned from a swimming hood to protect her face, which helped, but it failed to prevent the odd small jellyfish drifting into her mouth.

She was also closely followed by a basking shark, swam through the legendary whirlpools of the Corryvreckan Gulf in Scotland and, at one point, even found herself swimming as live rounds flew overhead during Exercise Joint Warrior, the largest military exercise in Europe which was taking place in Cape Wrath in north west Scotland.

It’s a second remarkable record for her as in 2021, aged 21, she became the youngest woman in the world to row solo across the Atlantic Ocean.

Speaking about her latest challenge, Jasmine said: “From the moment I first dived into the water to finally reaching dry land again, this has been a truly epic experience. It’s been really tough, but at the time it was also incredibly rewarding.

“From the beautiful wildlife I’ve seen to the litter I’ve sadly encountered, this gave me a greater appreciation of how beautiful but fragile our marine ecosystem really is.

“This challenge has further inspired me to work with organisations driven by protecting the environment and I hope that by doing this I have inspired others and shown that when you put your mind to something, anything is possible and you can overcome any obstacles that are put in your way.”

Only two people have swum Land’s End to John O’Groats to date – Ross Edgley, who owns the record for being the first and the fastest Brit to do it in 61 days in 2018, and Sean Conway who also completed it in 2013.

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