SWIMMING THE ENGLISH CHANNEL even under the best of conditions is an arduous and challenging feat, but the self-imposed handicap of Fred Baldasare had never been overcome before: the 44-year-old frogman from Cocoa Beach, Florida, swam from France to England under water.
Fred had assayed the feat twice before, and had failed. When on July 11, 1962, he strapped on his rubber suit and his oxygen tank, he well knew what to expect. Under the water, a swimmer has no sense of direction. So to avoid straying off course, Baldasare swam behind a towed cage.
Baldasare also knew that the currents underneath the surface are more powerful than those on the surface. For that, hazard, there was no solution.
Swimming in the bowels of the Channel, Baldasare was swept by a strong tide far to the north of the course he had laid out, much farther north than any other Channel swimmer had ever been. It is estimated that he traveled nearly twice the 22 miles of the Channel span.
Nevertheless, 18 hours and one minute after he had submerged off the coast of France, he surfaced near the greens of the Royal Cinque Golf Course in Kent – a nonpareil human submarine.