LONDON — A British man who spent five months at sea is believed to be the first person to swim around the island of Great Britain, making his way back to land in Margate, a coastal town in southeastern England, on Sunday.
The swimmer, Ross Edgley, 33, had not been ashore since June 1, when he set off on his 1,780-mile aquatic journey.
Sunday morning, he was welcomed ashore by loud, enthusiastic cheers.
“It still doesn’t feel real,” Mr. Edgley told the BBC.
For more than 150 days, Mr. Edgley swam six to 12 hours a day. He spent the rest of his time eating and sleeping on his support boat, from where he documented his quest in episodes streamed online.
Mr. Edgley, the author of a fitness guide, created the #GreatBritishSwim hashtag for his feat, and regularly posted on Instagram to his 268,000 followers. His audience saw his struggles with strong tides, soreness, cold water, and jellyfish.
Almost two weeks after he entered the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest staged sea swim, Mr. Edgley posted an unflattering photograph of the impact the swim was having on his body — specifically his heavily bruised, swollen feet, which looked as flat as fins.
“The harsh reality of spending hours, days & months at sea swimming,” he captioned the Sept. 2 photograph.
Swimming day in and day out in saltwater also turned his tongue dry and sore, making it hard for him to eat, swallow or talk. The solution? Coconut oil and yogurt, which helped him to overcome the soreness and keep going.
Mr. Edgley said that even though he had not enjoyed every single moment of the swim, discipline kept him going.
“There are times when there are milky ways, or seals — that it is amazing; it’s a real privilege,” he said. “But other times it’s less about enjoyment, and more just about discipline.”
In 2013, Sean Conway became the first man to swim the length of Britain when he swam from Land’s End in western Cornwall to John O’Groats in northern Scotland, according to the BBC. No one other than Mr. Edgley is known to have completed a circumnavigation of Britain.
Why he did it is not entirely clear. But Mr. Edgley is no stranger to extreme tasks; this was the third exercise involving mental and physical strength that he has completed this year.
In January, he accomplished the world’s longest rope climb in less than 24 hours by repeatedly pulling himself up and down a 10-meter rope until he had climbed 8,848 meters, or 29,029 feet — the height of Mount Everest.
In June, he attempted to swim almost 25 miles from Martinique to St. Lucia while tied to a tree. Because of strong currents, he didn’t make it to the shore, he said, which prompted him to take on an even more demanding aquatic challenge.
“The adventurer in me had unfinished business,” he said after the Caribbean exercise.
After he returned to Britain, he asked the Royal Marines if he could be allowed to swim for 48 hours straight, “just to see what I’ve got in the locker,” he said. “One of the marines mentioned the idea of swimming around the entirety of Britain — something that’s never been done before, And I thought, ‘Why not?’”
What’s next after five months of swimming?
Mr. Edgley said that his plans involved something much more practical.
“I’ve got to learn to walk again,” he said.