Anthony McCarley swims off the Island of the Blue Dolphins

Forum member @AnthonyMcCarley is attempting an unprecedented 29-mile swim from San Nicolas Island, the most remote of the California Channel Islands, to Santa Barbara Island (also remote but somewhat less remote).

San Nicolas Island is owned and operated by the US Navy, with access strictly controlled. Approval for this swim took quite a bit of finagling. The island is also known as the real-life setting of the beloved children's novel The Island of the Blue Dolphins.

This swim is being sanctioned and observed by the Santa Barbara Channel Swimming Association.

Follow along at

Go Anthony!



  • dpm50dpm50 PA, U.S.Senior Member
    edited October 2015

    Go Anthony!! Swim safe... swim happy! Doing Philly proud!

  • evmoevmo SydneyAdmin
    edited October 2015

    For those who are wondering... Anthony pulled himself due to, from what it sounds like, seasickness. Given all his other successful swims, this is new for Anthony, but certainly part of the general marathon swimming experience that many of us can relate to. Those outer Channel Islands waters are hairy!

    Nonetheless, it was still the first known attempted marathon swim off San Nicolas Island, which is still pretty cool!

  • dpm50dpm50 PA, U.S.Senior Member

    Have been seasick during swims--no fun, even on my much shorter swims! And I can't imagine having to deal w/ it on a 28 mile swim! Kudos for the attempt! Wishing him a speedy recovery!

  • NoelFigartNoelFigart Lebanon, NHSenior Member

    Bummer. Hope he feels better soon.

    I guess that's why we call it an attempt rather than a sure thing no matter how prepared, huh?

  • IronMikeIronMike Northern VirginiaCharter Member

    Next time, @AnthonyMcCarley!


    We're all just carbon, water, starlight, oxygen and dreams

  • dpm50dpm50 PA, U.S.Senior Member

    He's a Philly area guy--we always come back! :)

  • AnthonyMcCarleyAnthonyMcCarley Berwyn, PACharter Member

    One of the benefits of marathon swimming is that it gives you a good look at yourself without the use of a mirror. It tells you who you are.

    The phrase that I repeat to myself at the worst of times, is “this is normal.” Tired, tongue swelling, vomiting, cramps in my hips, going zombie, losing track of things – I say to myself, “this is normal.”

    Whatever happened was not normal. At the risk of keeping this embarrassing result in the light (when I would rather bury it), I am sharing this information with the hope it is useful to someone.

    Normally, I get seasick on the boat, but after getting in the water my stomach steadies. At Anacapa last year I vomited off the boat about 20 minutes before the start. At Catalina last year I couldn’t feed for the first two hours because I was seasick from the two hour boat ride.

    This swim required a six hour boat ride. I had never taken Dramamine. But the idea of being seasick for six hours sounded exhausting, so I took Dramamine. The boat ride was great – I was even able to eat and drink during the ride.

    The swim started two minutes after 5pm. Choppy and swelly (yes, I know that isn’t a word), but less than I expected and less than I have experienced on other swims. The sun went down behind the island fairly quickly. I have had people suggest, with helpful intent, that I panicked or got anxious because of the conditions and the darkness. That isn’t the case. Done a handful of night time swims and the swells are just a ride.

    At about an hour into the swim, my vision started to spin. I could think clearly, but the world was spinning to the left, correcting and spinning again. Instead of settling down, the spinning vision got worse – faster and stronger. Until I stopped the swim, according to everyone present, I was swimming fine – straight and decent stroke rate. But I will admit here privately on the Forum (joke) that I was scared. For probably an hour wondered how fast Dan could get out of the kayak and get me when I passed out. Thinking about my children and wife, I stopped the swim. I had swam less than a typical workout – under three hours.

    On the boat I was embarrassed and confused – I could not figure out what happened.

    A theory of one of the Observers is that I was letting the top of the chop cover my feed bottle and was drinking sea water. His suggestion is to empty the water bottle completely at every feed.

    It wasn’t until 24 hours later, when the welts became painful, that I remembered I got a bunch of zaps from invisible creatures about 30 minutes into the swim. I try not to let little things bother me, but at the time at least one of the zaps made me wince. When I got home, I noticed I probably had 50 or so little spots on my upper body and bunches of spots on both arms.

    I am still wobbly a little today – four days later. Saw a doctor this afternoon to see if I have an inner ear infection (I always have ear trouble). He can’t tell. Even though a pharmacist friend says that Dramamine shouldn’t have lasted long enough to cause trouble, the doctor said that I could have had an adverse reaction to the drug and that mixing with toxic stings could be the issue. But he doesn’t know. And I still don’t know.

    But breaking Rule Number One was a rookie mistake: Never do anything different, untested, on The Day. (Or your day may be over before it starts.)

    Sorry, this note ended up longer than I intended. If you are still reading… thanks.

    We'll see if this is my white whale.

  • pavlicovpavlicov NYC USASenior Member
    edited October 2015

    I am sorry about your swim!

    Because I have sinus infection, and cannot swim an easy access to scientific literature and it is fairly easy for me to read through statistical results of the papers, I tried to search the Pubmed for any uncommon side effects of Dramamine (and related chemical compounds) that might help to explain your experience. I spent about 2 5 hours searching and skimming through various papers (which is not an extensive scientific review) but I did not find anything much helpful. No case report suggesting 'being wobbly' days later. Most of what I found is that Dramamine does cause blurry vision and sleepiness in randomized clinical trials comparing to other motion sickness preventing drugs : example reference: (I have an access to full PDF if anyone is interested).

    However, I did find one old paper (from 1981) comparing 3 antimotion sickness drugs in pilot trainees. One of them is 50mg dimenhydrinate (dramamine). What makes the paper interesting is that they compare the effect of the drug during light and in the dark, suggesting that during darkness, new side effects might appear.

    In their conclusion they say: "During whole-body motion in darkness ... dimenhydrinate produced significant declines in the vestibular eye movements ... also interfered with the ability of the individual to fixate adequately on a visual task during motion." They suggest that during darkness the possible adverse side effect can be "the inability to maintain visual fixation during motion".

    The paper was published but I could not find a PDF. I found only a Technical Report of the paper (that is a version of the paper before publication - usually contains more graphs and technical details than the actual publication). It is really cute :) old paper (made me smile and feel all fuzzy about how great old science is) and contains a lot of old scientific language. It is fun to read the Introduction and Method sections. Then I suggest to skip until Discussion (pp. 20).

    Additional search suggests that dramamine is link to nystagmus (ex. reference comparing to placebo and to ginger:

    I am not a medical doctor! But maybe someone here is and can shed a light into the findings of the paper. It seems to me that Dramamine can produce spinning sensations (combined inability to maintain visual fixation during motion and nystagmus) when taken in darkness. It does not explain at all the wobbly sensations days later.

  • AnthonyMcCarleyAnthonyMcCarley Berwyn, PACharter Member

    Wow, @pavlicov, Thank you so much for doing all that work. Very helpful. Very informative. Thank you!

  • IronMikeIronMike Northern VirginiaCharter Member

    @pavlicov, you've just shown why I like this community so much!


    We're all just carbon, water, starlight, oxygen and dreams

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