Krzysztof Gajewski - Masurian Lake District
Northwest Mamry Lake to Suchy Róg, Sniardwy Lake
77.5 km (48.2 miles)
31 hours, 53 minutes on 15-16 July 2019
Observed and documented by Leszek Naziemiec & Tomasz Madej
Longest lake swim, Europe
- Name: Krzysztof Gajewski
- Gender: male
- Age on swim date: 27
- Nationality: Poland
- Resides: Zielona
Previous Marathon Swims
- Tabarca Alicante Swimming Marathon 21km (2016, 2017)
- 24h Swimming Ulthramarathon (Strzelin 2017)
- The Polish Lakes Crown 127km (2018)
- Relay Swim Gdynia to Hel (Baltic Sea, Ice swim - water 4°C, 2019)
- Agnieszka Chudewniak (coordinator/coach)
- Leszek Naziemiec (head observer)
- Tomasz Madej (observer)
- Wojciech Chudewniak (boat captain)
- Daniel Gajewski (coordinator/kayak support)
- Michał Starosolski (doctor)
- Mariusz Lebioda (kayak support)
- Jakub Nowakowski (boat captain/kayak support)
- Jan Kukier (boat captain)
- Adam Hnatyszyn (boat captain/water lifeguard)
- Kordian Grzybek (boat captain/water lifeguard)
- Rafał Sieradzki (on-shore and start/finish support)
- Krzysztof Hadzicki (technical online support)
- Joanna Hadzicka (technical online and social media support)
Collaborations with City Major of Gizycko, Provincial Police in Olsztyn together with subordinate poviat units.
- Category: Solo, nonstop, unassisted.
- Rules: MSF Rules of Marathon Swimming, without exception or modification.
- Equipment used: swim cap, goggles, textile swimsuit, Desitin, light at night
Northwest shore of Mamry Lake to Suchy Róg on north shore of Sniardwy Lake - via Lake Kirsajty, Lake Dargin (around east side of Poganckie Kepy), Lake Kisajno, Gizycko Canal, Lake Niegocin (around west side of Ptasia Island), Lake Boczne, Lake Jagodne, Lake Szymoneckie, Szymonski Canal, Lake Szymon, Grunwaldzki Canal, Lelecki Canal, Lake Taltowisko, Taltenski Canal, Lake Talty, and Lake Mikolajki.
- Body of Water: Lakes and canals of the Masurian Lake District, Poland
- Route Type: one-way
- Start Location: Dock and beach at far northwest shore of Mamry Lake, 800m northwest of Port Trygort boat club. (54.21311, 21.65075)
- Finish Location: Suchy Róg, Sniardwy Lake (53.78852, 21.76576)
- Minimum Route Distance: 77.5 km (48.2 miles)
Intended route continued to bridge at Okartowo, then returned along same path to the start (170 km).
Krzysztof started at the same time as Michal Jeka, who abandoned the swim after approximately 52 km. They were escorted by separate boats and crews.
No known previous swims of this route.
- Start: 15 July 2019, 14:29 (Europe/Warsaw, UTC+2).
- Finish: 16 July 2019, 22:04
- Elapsed: 31 hours, 53 minutes.
Summary of Conditions
|Water Temp (C)||18||21|
|Air Temp (C)||15||24|
- Trackpoint frequency: 30 minutes.
- Download raw data (CSV)
- Track distance: 78.7 km
Nutrition: Twice hourly: Energy gel, iso drink, energy bar, pancakes
The idea to face a really long distance swim was born the year before, during another swim challenge “Korona Jezior Polski 127km” / “Polish Lakes Crown 127km” (swimming across 7 biggest lakes in Poland, June 11-17th 2018). During the hunt for a real challenge I came across two documents: the movie Driven and Sarah Thomas’ Lake Champlain swim documentation. This is when the dream was born - I wanted to challenge myself the same way. So came the idea to swim the distance of 170 kilometers.
It took us a long time to find a place in Europe, where it would be possible to organize such a long swim. In the end, the decision was made that we do it in our country, that is Poland. We knew that it would be very logistically and organizationally complex and there is a very high risk of bad weather (what we were most worried about was storms). Finally, the localisation was chosen - the Masurian Lake District (a complex of lakes and connecting channels).
Issues of permits and safeguards (the presence of policies all the time, blocking the Giżycko Channel for sailboats, notification of numerous public organizations or provision of space on the shipping channel) forced us to start at a strictly specified time.
About 2 weeks before the start, the weather in Masuria got unexpectedly worse and the water temperature dropped from 25°C to around 17-18°C during this time. We had a very difficult decision to make. At that time, I made the decision that despite such conditions, I would not withdraw, and I would fight as much as I could in these conditions.
We started a few minutes after the 2PM on Monday. I needed the first few hours in the water to realize how much effort and struggle was still ahead of me. I was overwhelmed by the awareness that despite 18° C of water I have to make at least the minimum plan we have set up and swim to Śniardwy (the biggest lake on the route, that marked half of the distance).
The unique atmosphere in Giżycko and the Łuczański Canal (around 11PM, which is 9 hours in the water) caused that everything in my head “clicked” as it should, I made up my thoughts and finally focused 100% on swimming.
The first night I endured quite well and with hope expected a bit of warmth from Tuesday sun. Unfortunately, it did not appear, and I began to mentally prepare for the fight against hypothermia. As an ice swimmer, I should be ready for it.
I should have, but never, even in the winter, had I bring my body to such a state. To endure for half an hour in water of a few degrees is one thing, but for many hours slowly and consciously enter into a state of severe hypothermia is totally different.
On Tuesday around noon I got the information that Michał (my friend that simultaneously tried the same challenge) gave up. I knew that my clock was also ticking and hypothermia would sooner or later come to me.
An hour later, I entered Tałty Lake, where the temperature of the water has even dropped in relation to the channels in which I was swimming earlier. Here, “my fight” began. There were chills from the cold, my fingers began to get numb. I had only one goal in my head - to reach Mikołajki City.
After a few more hours we reached Mikołajki. In spite of tiredness and coldness, I felt relieved. It’s only a short distance to Śniardwy Lake. It’s time to show what I can do.
On the Śniardwy Lake, earlier symptoms were accompanied by severe visual hallucinations and pain in internal organs. Initially, in my vision the shoreline blurred, and every now and then there were “black spots” in the water. Although I was fully aware and communicated with the crew in a syntactic and logical way, the subcooling continued. Hallucinations began to become more and more distinct and what was very surprising to me, they repeated in spite of my awareness of its absurd.
I was still fighting. Still at the 76th kilometer (in the middle of Śniardwy Lake) I was sure that it would be faster or slower, but I would reach at least 85 kilometers.
The landmark we were navigating to - Suchy Róg - seemed to be really close. On the one hand there was a cold rain, it was blowing and it was already dark, but on the other hand the wave was favorable for us. Generally, it seems that there is nothing to complain about. The problem was that Suchy Róg did not approach as it should.
Although it was my 3rd swim across Śniardwy Lake, it’s only now that I understand why this lake has gained its fame. There can blow in one, wave in another and the current carries in the third direction. So I accepted the tactics: I’m swimming to the max, we’ll see how it ends, at least I can get warmer. The new tactic was successful. Slowly but consistently Suchy Róg was getting closer and it seemed to me that it was a bit warmer. In my opinion, it was getting better with me, but as I later learned, MD Michał Starosolski did no longer foretell a bright future for me.
Less than two kilometers away I had to admit to him right. At one point, suddenly and completely unexpectedly, it stopped being cold, I stopped shivering and even everything stopped hurting. Within a few meters I felt the level of energy falling to zero. I shared this information with the crew. After a short conversation, it was decided that as soon as possible we are leaving to land and in the first possible place and we finish the crossing.
At this moment, we had 200, maybe 400 meters to shore. And in this situation, being so close to the target, I was ready to go on the boat at once. Not for the fact that I was not able to swim, but for the fact that I had a great attack of aggression and frustration. At the moment, only thanks to the efforts of the entire crew, I reached the shore. I was then ready to squander over 32 hours of effort just to not stay in the water an additional 5 minutes. If only one person would say “get on a boat”, I would do it without hesitation.
Fortunately, such words were not spoken and I reached the shore on my own. I was worried whether I would stand on land on my own in such a state (as the Federation requires). The first few steps in the shallow water were to be very difficult, the next ones went much easier and at 10:04PM after swimming 78.7 kilometers I stood on my own ground and finished the project.
I should probably be happy at the moment, but dominated the fatigue and shock that this was the end. The only thing that interested me then was the vision that there is warm under the boat’s deck. A few minutes needed to load me on a rescue boat and transport me to a houseboat was a great shock for me. “How is it, I’m no longer in the water, and I’m getting colder.”
The real struggle began when I found myself under warm blankets. The convulsions came back and I began to catch numerous cramps. The pain of tired muscles returned suddenly with redoubled strength. I lived in this state for a long time, until I fell asleep from fatigue. After a few minutes of sleep, I woke up surprised that the chills were gone, and all that was left was muscle pain.
After a while, with the help of several people, I even managed to sit on the bunk. It was only then that I realized that finally after 5 years of swimming and many extreme challenges, the element that decided to stop the test was not my psyche, but to bring the body to the limit. After each of the previous challenges, there was a thought somewhere in the back of my head that I could achieve more. This time it was different. I did everything. No more philosophizing and wondering what would happen if I went on. I’m sure that even one extra kilometer in the water that day was out of my reach.
Slowly, I began to be aware of the situation on board. I was shocked by the fact that the entire crew looked only a little better than me. They also practically did not sleep all the time and additionally they had a lot of different tasks on them. It took me several days to get to know all the details of unexpected events that happened and they had to deal with (minor - not affecting the whole swim, such as - only after a few hours of streaming - drowning the live stream camera, that “rests in peace” on the lake bottom, middle - technical difficulties with our GPS track - big thank you track.rs technical support team for immediate actions, and major - risky behavior of sailboats passing by). From this point of view I had it easier because I just had to swim.
I would like to thank the best crew I had the opportunity to work with. We all did a great job.
Click to enlarge.
Krzysztof Gajewski and Michal Jeka starting from northwest Mamry Lake.
Photo by Tomasz Madej
Photo by Tomasz Madej
Photo by Tomasz Madej