Brave Activist Christopher Swain Swims The “Lavender Lake”

Brave Activist Christopher Swain Swims The “Lavender Lake”
Christopher Swain swims the Gowanus Canal
Photo via itookthispic

The Gowanus Canal opened in 1866, hailed at the time as a vital waterway. Mills, commercial shipping, and many other businesses used it during a 19th century business boom. But that business boom led to the canal being recognized as one of the most polluted bodies of water in the country.

In Jonathan Letham’s novel Motherless Brooklyn, it is referred to as “the only body of water in the world that is 90 percent guns.”

The canal is nicknamed the “Lavender Lake” for the color created by the pollutants and waste in the water (the 2001 documentary of the same nickname is an excellent resource).

In swims Christopher Swain, an environmental activist who first attempted to swim the canal’s entire 1.8-mile length in April 2015. He could not finish the swim because of bad weather.

On Saturday, October 17, Swain successfully completed the swim. And his reasons for doing so are rather simple.

“The reason I’m doing it – I’m a swimmer, I like clean water – I want this whole waterway to be safe enough for swimming,” he told NY1.

Christopher Swain swims Gowanus
Photo via swimwithswain

According to the Observer, “the Environmental Protection Agency unveiled a $506 million and decade-long plan for a cleanup on the canal that would provide clean waters for boating, but it won’t be safe for swimming anytime soon.”

But the title of the Observer article also refers to Swain as “madcap.” Swain’s swim has certainly brought attention to the issue.

It also begs the question as to what is more madcap — Swain’s dangerous swim, or the fact that the “lavender lake” got this way in the first place?

CBS News writes that Swain’s next swim will be the Newtown Creek in Greenpoint.


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