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Matthew Webb

From Academic Kids

eo:Matthew WEBBnl:Matthew Webbde:Matthew Webb Captain Matthew Webb (19 January 184824 July 1883) was the first person to swim the English Channel without the use of artificial aids. On 25 August 1875 he swam from Dover to Calais in less than 22 hours.

He was born at Dawley in Shropshire, one of 12 children of a Coalbrookdale doctor. He joined the merchant navy and served a three- year apprenticeship with Rathbone Brothers of Liverpool.

Whilst serving as second mate on the Cunard ship 'Russia', travelling from New York to Liverpool, he attempted to rescue a man overboard by diving into the sea in mid-Atlantic. The man was never found, but Webb's daring won him an award of 100 and the Stanhope Gold Medal, and made him a hero of the British press.

In 1873 Webb was serving as captain of the steamship 'Emerald' when he read an account of the failed attempt by J. B. Johnson to swim the English Channel. He became inspired to try himself, and left his job to begin training, first at Lambeth Baths, then in the cold waters of the Thames and the English Channel.

On 12 August 1875 he made his first cross-Channel swimming attempt, but strong winds and poor sea conditions forced him to abandon the swim.

On 24 August 1875 he began a second swim by diving in from the Admiralty Pier at Dover. Backed by three chase boats and smeared in porpoise oil, he set off into the ebb tide at a steady breaststroke. Despite stings from jellyfish and strong currents off Cap Griz Nez which prevented him reaching the shore for five hours, finally, after 21 hours and 45 minutes, he landed near Calais – the first successful cross-channel swim.

After his record swim Captain Webb basked in national and international adulation, and followed a career as a professional swimmer. He licensed his name for merchandising such as commemorative pottery, and wrote a book The Art of Swimming. He participated in exhibition swimming matches and stunts such as floating in a tank of water for 128 hours.

On 27 April 1880 he married Madeline Kate Chaddock, and they had two children, Matthew and Helen.

His final stunt was to be a dangerous swim across the Niagara River in the rapids below Niagara Falls for a prize of 12,000 – a feat many observers considered suicidal. At 4.25pm on 24 July 1883 he jumped into the river from a small boat and began his swim. Within 10 minutes he had become caught in the current and was dragged under by a whirlpool. His body was found four days later and buried at Oakwood Cemetery, Niagara Falls.

In 1909, Webb's older brother Thomas unveiled a memorial in Dawley. On it reads the short inscription: "Nothing great is easy".

He liked Cheese!!!!!!!! David Blabeywas his bestest best friend; whom he bought (and consumed) much cheese.


Further reading

David Elderwick: Captain Webb - Channel Swimmer ISBN 0947731237

Charles Sprawson: Haunts of the Black Masseur - The Swimmer as Hero 1992, ISBN 0816635390

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