Cookie consent

We use cookies to improve your experience on this website. By continuing to browse our site you agree to our use of cookies. Tell me more | Cookie preferences

Swimmer abandons swim from Cuba to U.S.

Palfrey abandons swim from Cuba to U.S.

    Just Watched

    Palfrey abandons swim from Cuba to U.S.

Palfrey abandons swim from Cuba to U.S. 00:25

Story highlights

  • Penny Palfrey sets a personal best, beating her 67-mile record
  • A strong current made it "impossible" for her to continue, her team says
  • She was aiming to be the first person to swim the route unaided

A 49-year-old grandmother who wanted to become the first person to swim 103 miles from Cuba to the Florida Keys unassisted ended her bid early Sunday morning when a strong current in the shark-infested waters made it "impossible" for her to continue, her team said.

Penny Palfrey, an Australian-British endurance swimmer, braved jellyfish stings and the scorching sun but kept swimming since taking to the water Friday morning.

Had she been able to keep up her pace, she would have come ashore on the Florida Keys on Sunday afternoon.

But at 2 a.m. Sunday, her team said in a Facebook post that the attempt was halted.

"Penny Palfrey had to be pulled out of the water, after swimming for more than 40 hours, at approximately midnight tonight due to a strong southeast current that made it impossible for her to continue her swim," the post said. "Penny is presently on her escort boat being taken care of by her crew."

2011: Nyad says 'I stand here proud'

    Just Watched

    2011: Nyad says 'I stand here proud'

2011: Nyad says 'I stand here proud' 02:55
2011: Third time not charm for Diana Nyad

    Just Watched

    2011: Third time not charm for Diana Nyad

2011: Third time not charm for Diana Nyad 02:13

The note didn't say how far she had ultimately swum.

A post Saturday night, while Palfrey was still in the water, said she had gone more than 86 miles.

By doing so, she did score a personal best: she broke her record of 67 miles set in 2011 while swimming from Little Cayman island to Grand Cayman island.

Palfrey had wanted to become the first person to swim across the Florida straits without any assistance -- no shark cage, flippers, wet suit or snorkel.

Susie Malroney, a 22-year-old swimmer, completed the Cuba-to-the-Keys feat in 1997, but she used a shark cage.

Palfrey stayed nourished and hydrated by consuming a carbohydrate-rich drink every 30 minutes.

Her crew also employed "shark shields," cables that hang from the boats and kayaks around Palfrey and emit a pulse designed to keep the predators at bay.

"We attach (the shields) to the kayaker and to the boat which emit an electric field through the water," Palfrey told reporters in Havana on Thursday. "When a shark comes within five meters it picks up the sensors on the snout. It doesn't harm them, but they don't like it and swim away."

According to the Facebook posting on Saturday, the devices may have come in handy after Palfrey spotted hammerhead sharks swimming beneath her.

The sharks, though, "quickly vanished," according to the posting.

Last year, swimmer Diana Nyad twice tried to make the swim, also unassisted, but was turned back by health problems and stinging jellyfish.

      CNN recommends

    • pkg clancy north korea nuclear dreams_00002004.jpg

      As "We are the World" plays, a video shows what looks like a nuclear attack on the U.S. Jim Clancy reports on a bizarre video from North Korea.
    • Photojournalist Alison Wright travelled the world to capture its many faces in her latest book, "Face to Face: Portraits of the Human Spirit."
    • pkg rivers uk football match fixing_00005026.jpg

      Europol claims 380 soccer matches, including top level ones, were fixed - as the scandal widens, CNN's Dan Rivers looks at how it's done.
    • No Eiffel Towers, Statues of Liberties, Mt. Rushmores, Taj Mahals, Aussie koalas or Chairman Maos.

      It's an essential part of any trip, an activity we all take part in. Yet almost none of us are any good at it. Souvenir buying is too often an obligatory slog.