Monday, December 17, 2012

Local Swimmer Completes Remarkable Feat From Deadman's Island

On August 28, 1910 Los Angeles athlete Mabel Lawson swam from the southern end of Deadman's Island at San Pedro to the bath house at Long Beach, a total of 7 miles.  Reports at the time state that no man or woman had been able to do this before. Hundreds of people on the Long Beach pier cheered her arrival.

Mabel Lawson image; Los Angeles Herald , October  28, 1910

Deadman's Island ca. 1910
This small island was removed
 in the late 1920s.
USC Digital Library

Lawson used the English overhand stroke and covered the distance in 4 hours 20 minutes.  She lost half an hour battling the tide rip, and more minutes when a gigantic fish swam along side and scared her. Her aquatic exploit was a test of strength and endurance, however, and was not to set a speed record.

Her victorious swim was all the more impressive considering the fog bank "held her in most of the way and she had to swim within sound of the surf to prevent getting lost" -- the same thick fog that had delayed her endeavor for several days.

The athletic Lawson was 19 at the time and weighed 145 pounds. Part of her training consisted of being "massaged daily with olive oil to lessen the action of the sea water or retain as much as possible the heat of her body while in the water." She credited her coach William Mehler, a lifeguard employed by the bath house, with her development as a swimmer.

Lawson boasted afterwards that she "could have gone three or four times further had it been necessary" and challenged other local swimmers to race against her. She had previously swam for two summers, but this was her first long swim.

Sources: Los Angeles Herald, Los Angeles Times, Oakland Tribune