Enduring jellyfish stings, a shark encounter and a live military exercise, 23-year-old teacher Jasmine Harrison lands another world record as the first woman to swim the full length of Britain.
After swimming 900 miles, Jasmine Harrison is the first woman in the world to swim from Land’s End to John O’Groats.
The swimming teacher and motivational speaker from Thirsk in North Yorkshire completed her journey at 16:43 on Tuesday 18 October, having first entered the water at Land’s End on Friday 1 July. She was greeted by her dog Bonnie and parents, Susan and Keith.
This is not Jasmine’s first world record. In 2021, aged 21, she became the youngest woman in the world to row solo across the Atlantic Ocean.
A day in the life of Jasmine Harrison
Throughout her full length of Britain swim, Jasmine swam between four and 12 hours a day. She would often swim in two shifts, broken by eating and sleeping in her support boat.
Much of her swimming took place at night under moonlight, with the dark concealing unnerving surprises such as the approach of a whale that swam only a metre below her.
When not swimming, she spent her time on the support boat, waiting for bad weather to pass or managing logistics like refuelling, crew changes and boat maintenance.
Remarkable wildlife encounters
During her journey, which was the equivalent of swimming almost 58,000 lengths of a 25m pool, Jasmine contended with numerous difficulties. As well as the cold water, she also had to navigate busy shipping lanes, tolerate painful chafing from her wetsuit and endure ‘salt mouth’, a condition that strips skin from the tongue and throat and makes it hard to swallow.
She also had to grapple with many psychological challenges: to turn up each day and swim at the same pace no matter what she was faced with. Some stretches were particularly dispiriting, such as her crossing of the Bristol Channel when she only progressed three miles in six hours, which was very tough for her mentally.
Jellyfish proved to be another obstacle. Jasmine suffered multiple stings to her face, hands and feet. She wore a neoprene mask fashioned from a swimming hood to protect her face, which helped – except when tiny baby jellyfish drifted into her mouth.
She was also followed by a basking shark, swam through the legendary Corryvreckan whirlpools and even found herself swimming as live rounds flew overhead during Exercise Joint Warrior, the largest military exercise in Europe taking place in Cape Wrath in north west Scotland.
Jasmine also shared with us more pleasurable standout moments: “Swimming with dolphins, and seeing whales and a basking shark” were among her most memorable wildlife encounters. Swimming below the Skye bridge and soaking up the scenery on the coast of Scotland were other unforgettable experiences.
“A truly epic experience”
“From the moment I first dived into the water to finally reaching dry land again, this has been a truly epic experience,” she said. “From all the jellyfish to the constant cold and chafing from my wetsuit, it’s been really tough, but at the time it was also incredibly rewarding.”
“From the beautiful wildlife I’ve seen to the litter I’ve sadly encountered, this gave me a greater appreciation of how beautiful but fragile our marine ecosystem really is.”
Jasmine undertook the challenge in support of two charities: marine conservation charity Sea Shepherd UK and Surfers Against Sewage, an environmental charity working to keep UK coasts safe and clean. She says the journey has further inspired her to work with organisations driven by protecting the environment.
“I hope that by doing this I have inspired others and shown that when you put your mind to something, anything is possible and you can overcome any obstacles that are put in your way.”
The final stretch
The sea conditions during Jasmine’s final stretch didn’t make things easy. “Everything was challenging,” Jasmine told us, “but the weather and the sea conditions along the north coast of Scotland made everything very unpredictable.”
Catching up with Jasmine two days after her swim, she told us. “I’ve not really had a chance to reflect yet. But I’m looking forward to relaxing, getting a good night’s sleep, spending time with my dog and then getting out to share my story to help inspire others!”
“My body is generally feeling OK,” she said. “Still very sore skin chafes from the wetsuit. It was lovely having a proper shower and getting the salt out of my hair. The main thing is to sleep well each night in the knowledge that I don’t have to get up in the dark and enter very cold water.”
Jasmine Harrison is raising money to support marine conservation charity Sea Shepherd UK and Surfers Against Sewage. Read our interview with Jasmine when she reached the Isle of Man in early August. Photos: Rudderly Mad, Simon Price.