A 36-year-old woman just became the first person to swim around Easter Island. It took her 19 hours.
Mara Films / Kartemquin Films
- Rapa Nui, or Easter Island, is one of the most remote places in the world.
- Sarah Ferguson, a 36-year-old South African swimmer, just became the first person to swim around the island. She logged 39.46 miles in 19 hours and 8 minutes.
- The area around Easter Island is inundated with plastic: It sits near a swirling vortex of plastic debris called the South Pacific Garbage Patch, and lots of tiny pieces float in the water or wash ashore.
Easter Island is one of the most remote islands in the world. It sits some 2,200 miles off the coast of Chile, and is 1,200 miles from the nearest piece of land.
But even there, the water is filled with plastic.
That was the motivation for elite South African swimmer Sarah Ferguson, who recently completed a world-record swim around the island, covering 39.46 miles (63.5 kilometers) in 19 hours.
Ferguson, who used to swim for South Africa in international pool competitions, has taken to open waters in recent years to raise awareness about plastic pollution. She said Easter Island struck her as the perfect spot "because it's got one of the highest concentrations of microplastics in the world."
So on Friday morning, she coated her face in a thick white layer of waterproof sunscreen, kicked off her flip-flops, shed her bathrobe, and dipped into the waters off the shore of Easter Island. At precisely 8:07 a.m., she started swimming.
Ferguson didn't get out of the water, touch a boat, or put on fins at any point in the swim. No one had ever circumnavigated the island that way before. One man tried in 2016, but quit after a very salty 26 hours and 52 minutes in the water.
"It was my toughest swim ever," Ferguson told Business Insider from a satellite phone as she recovered on Easter Island. Her tongue, she said, was still prickly from the salty waves, since the island happens to be in an extra salty corner of the Pacific - not at all like the ocean she's used to around South Africa.
Take a look at what Ferguson endured along her 19-hour, world-first swim around the island locals know as Rapa Nui.