Swimmer Penny Palfrey was released from hospital Tuesday morning after being hospitalised for a day and a half to recuperate from her epic 40 hour and 41 minute swim from Little Cayman to Grand Cayman.
Her husband Chris Palfrey, who was on the support crew that accompanied her during the swim, said on Monday night that she was recovering well and he expected her to be released Tuesday.
“The swelling is already going down and she’s starting to look like herself,” Mr. Palfrey said Monday evening.
When Ms Palfrey came ashore at 10.07pm Sunday, she was almost unrecognisable, with swollen lips and a discoloured face. She suffered sunburn and dehydration during her swim. On Monday, she was still having difficulty speaking as her mouth and tongue remained swollen from salt water.
During her epic swim, three Oceanic white tip sharks that got close to her were killed. The shark killings have drawn strong criticism from the shark conservation community.
Mr. Palfrey said his wife and her team had come to Cayman to do a swim and there had been no intention to kill sharks.
“It was not in any of our plans for that to happen. I was not aware it was going to happen until after the event. Our goal was to do a swim. It was not to do anything to the environment,” he said.
Kayaker Richard Clifford, to whom one of the sharks came within a few feet, said of those moments when the sharks were closing in, “Penny was the endangered species out there.” He added: “No one went out there with the intention to harm anything.”
Fisherman Charles Ebanks told the crew that the sharks were very aggressive and would have continued to threaten the swimmer.
Director of the Department of Environment Gina Ebanks-Petrie said: “Given the importance of sharks as a top-level predator in the marine environment, the DoE would have preferred to have seen this incident handled differently… I don’t have any specifics on the level of actual threat or risk that Penny faced from those sharks.”
Local sealife conservationist Guy Harvey said he thought the fact that the sharks were killed was a shame and excessive, but acknowledged that they were “a real threat”.
“People had to anticipate that fact that the Oceanic white tip shark are an integral part of the oceanic environment there. They should have thought about that,” he said. He said the white tips usually bump up against a swimmer again and again “to test and see and then take a bite”.
The swimmer had told her team that she had been bumped in the dark several times as she swam through Saturday night.
A kayak and inflatable power boat beside her each carried a Shark Shield that emits electrical pulses to repel sharks, but it appeared at least one of the sharks got closer than the 26 feet of protection it was meant to provide.
Oceanic white tip sharks are listed as vulnerable worldwide in the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s list of threatened species, and are listed as critically endangered in the northwest and west central Atlantic.
Ms Palfrey broke the existing world record of 63 miles for a solo ocean unassisted swim. Unassisted is defined as without a wetsuit or shark cage.
The team had estimated that her swim would take between 30 and 40 hours, with some predicting it would take a little over 32 hours.
In the end, she swam eight hours beyond that hoped-for time. The swimmer, whose swim lasted the equivalent of an average working week, averaged a pace of 2.3 miles per hour for the first one third of her swim, but her speed fell as the swim continued as she was hit by currents and high ocean swells.
“Five to 10 miles out [from the finish], she hit a wicked current, right smack into her. I would not have guessed, she could have swum though that.
Her arm strokes were weak, she was just slicing through the water,” said Steven Munatones, one of her support crew after the swim.