TV Host To Swim From Canada to Greenland

Author and television host Justin Fornal is preparing to swim across Kane Basin, a stretch of 50 ice-choked kilometres of ocean between Canada and Greenland. Fornal’s team left New York on August 7 and is now in Greenland.

The swim will start on Pim Island, a small satellite just off Canada’s Ellesmere Island. He plans to boat across from Greenland and begin swimming as soon as weather and ocean conditions allow.

Fornal is the host of the Science Channel’s Unexplained and Unexplored, which investigates mysteries like Atlantis.

While Fornal’s website claims, “no one has ever attempted a swim of this magnitude,” questions remain about what exactly he’ll be attempting.

an ice-clogged straight at sunrise, tinted orange.

Kane Basin. Photo: Jerry Kobalenko


In an interview with the Toronto Sun, Fornal explained that a support kayak and Inuit team from Qaanaaq will guide him. What he doesn’t explain are the stipulations guiding his attempt. Will he make the swim all in one go? Will he break it into segments?

Can he rest in support boats? Is he allowed to grab onto the support kayak? Traditionally, extreme open-water swimmers are transparent about such things. But the rules of Fornal’s project are unknown.

This lack of detail somewhat overshadows his stated goal, which is to bring attention to climate change and the people of Qaanaaq.

Qaanaaq, Greenland. A row of cottages with mountains in the background.

Qaanaaq, Greenland, from which Fornal’s Inuit guides will boat him to Canada. From there, his swim back to Greenland begins. Photo: Jerry Kobalenko


English Channel rules

We reached out to legendary cold-water and marathon swimmer Lynne Cox for her take.

“I think I would call what Justin is doing an ‘adventure swim’,” Cox said. “Justin will be swimming in a thick wetsuit and thick cap. His goals are different than open water swimmers who swim under the English Channel rules.”

Cox explains, “Under English Channel rules, you have to start from shore and finish on the distant short without touching anyone or holding onto anything during the swim. You are only allowed to wear a swimsuit, swim cap, goggles, sunscreen, and something that will protect your skin from chafing. This type of swimming is about human capability and endurance.”

It seems that Fornal’s swim might be about other things. You can track his progress here.

View of Greenland from the swimmer's Canadian starting point.

View of Greenland from the swimmer’s Canadian starting point on Pim Island. The photo was taken in late May; there is much less ice in August. Photo: Jerry Kobalenko

Andrew Marshall

Andrew Marshall is an award-winning painter, photographer, and freelance writer. Andrew’s essays, illustrations, photographs, and poems can be found scattered across the web and in a variety of extremely low-paying literary journals.
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