Last week, the Bosporus, Türkiye’s busiest waterway, hosted the 34th edition of an intercontinental swimming race where professional swimmers swam from Asia and Europe.
The race was completed without incident thanks to the strictly controlled racing environment but experts warn the strait contains numerous risks for both amateur and professional swimmers disregarding measures.
Strong currents coupled with an episode of cramps can be dangerous for swimmers while large cargo vessels perusing the waterway throughout the day remain another risk.
Istanbul’s beaches along the Marmara Sea and Black Sea offer plenty for swimmers during the scorching summer months but some prefer swimming across Bosporus despite heavy maritime traffic and currents that can sweep away swimmers in just moments.
Experts say it is particularly dangerous to swim in areas with no safe way to get into the waterway.
Emre Seven, a swimming instructor who made a name for himself as the first Turk to swim across the Strait of Gibraltar, says swimming across the Bosporus is a “unique activity” but sometimes it ends up “badly” for some people, referring to drownings.
“Sea activity is very high in Bosporus, from whirlpools to ship traffic and roaring currents. It is actually one great river dividing the city. Swimming here is certainly dangerous and if you plan to do it, you should be careful,” he said. According to Seven, the most dangerous challenge for swimmers anywhere is cramping.
“People usually jump into the water without doing some warmup beforehand, so, a sudden force on leg muscles may cause a spasm. Cold water currents coming from the Black Sea into Bosporus also trigger sudden changes in seawater temperatures and this, in turn, triggers cramps. Once you have a cramp, you have to wait and massage the spot you have cramp and try to swim without the foot you have the cramp,” he told Anadolu Agency (AA) on Wednesday.
Seven warned that the Bosporus is not suitable for “beginners.” “You have to plan ahead where you will swim. If you cannot swim against the current and reach ashore, you should not waste your energy and wait for help while trying to stay afloat,” he said.
He said crossing between two sides of the Bosporus was particularly dangerous. “It is full of regular routes of ships, from ferries to cargo vessels,” he said. Seven recommends people that swim along the beaches on the Black Sea or Marmara shores instead.
İrfan Hattatoğlu, another swimming instructor, says people should not swim “with a full stomach.”
“People should especially avoid swimming in areas with dense currents and should not swim if they are inexperienced.Risks are too many if you swim with a full stomach, on the route of boats and against the current,” he said.
Hattatoğlu warned swimmers to find places with ladders if they want to swim and recommended going with a group of at least a few people so that they can help if somebody needs to be rescued.
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