KEY WEST, Fla. (AP) — The Australian woman who had to give up her quest to swim from Cuba to Florida because of painful jellyfish stings said Thursday that she will not make another attempt.
Chloe McCardel told The Associated Press that she had picked June for her swim because the jellyfish danger was supposed to be low. But about 11 hours into her expected 60-hour, 110-mile journey, she suddenly found herself in a swarm.
"I had one coming out of my mouth. I was pulling it, this tentacle out of my mouth, but I don't remember this moment. My kayaker told me that I was doing this, 'cause I have no recollection. I'm not coming back. That's it," she said.
The 28-year-old from Melbourne became the latest endurance athlete undone by the warm waters and fierce jellyfish of the Florida Straits, abandoning Wednesday night her attempt to become the first person to swim across nonstop without a shark cage. The jellyfish caught her and her support team by surprise.
"I got smashed with them coming from every direction," she said. "I would not have gone to all this trouble if I had known they would be out in such numbers in June. It wasn't how I expected it to turn out."
She was pulled out of the water and taken by one of her support vessels to Key West, where she was resting at a hotel Thursday. She would need 24 hours to recuperate, her team said.
It was the fifth failure involving three women who have tried to make the marathon swim the past three summers. Jellyfish stings and strong currents have been the main impediments.
Diana Nyad tweeted her commiseration. The endurance athlete has failed three times trying to make the same crossing and says she'd like to take another shot this summer.
"It's a tough night for Chloe McCardel, a superior swimmer and an exemplary spirit," Nyad wrote.
The Florida Straits have been busy the last three summers, with fellow marathon swimmers Nyad and Penny Palfrey making four failed attempts between them trying to swim from Cuba to the Florida Keys.
Australian Susie Maroney successfully made the crossing in 1997, but she did it with the benefit of a shark cage.
McCardel had twice made a double crossing of the English Channel, but the most time she had spent in the water continuously was 25 hours.
She attempted her Cuba to Florida swim under English Channel Marathon rules, which meant she could not touch her support boat or hold on to anything. She also wasn't allowed to wear a full-body wetsuit, which would have helped protect against jellyfish.
McCardel and her team spent nine and a half months planning the trip and studying others' attempts to try to figure out why those athletes didn't succeed.
McCardel, who makes a living doing first-aid training, and her husband, Paul, took out a second mortgage on their home to finance the $150,000 in costs associated with the swim.
They had made about half of it back through sponsorships, and leaned heavily on volunteers and donations.