Diana Nyad, the 62-year-old distance swimmer with a nagging desire to be the first person ever to swim successfully from Cuba to Florida, set off Saturday on her 103-mile journey through the shark- and jellyfish-infested bathwater that separates her from the record books. Though she'd planned on beginning her swim Sunday, forecasts for rough surf prompted her to move the trip up to Saturday, which means that, even as we rub the sleep from our eyes this morning, Diana Nyad is slicing through the fathomless ocean, trying not to get nibbled on by a whole catalogue of aquatic oddities.
If she's successful, Nyad will become the first person to make the swim without the safety of a shark cage (22-year-old Australian Susan Maroney accomplished the feat in 1997). Nyad will be flanked by boats and an electric current should (fingers crossed) keep prowling sharks at a safe distance, though it seems a little needlessly stressful (for me) that Nyad is attempting the swim in such close proximity to Shark Week. This will also be Nyad's fourth attempt to complete the 60-hour swim — she tried once at the peak of her career in 1978, and twice within a 41-hour period last summer when asthma brought on by jellyfish stings forced her to stop.