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Mike Spalding breaks for a smile midway across the channel between Moloka‘i and O‘ahu
Vol. 11, No. 2
April / May 2008

  >>   City on the Edge of Forever
  >>   The Channel Swimmers
  >>   Shaka Buddha

The Channel Swimmers 

story by Julia Steele
photos by Sergio Goes



Midnight. April 24, 1970. Harry Huffaker stands on the cliffs at ‘Upolu Point, in the north of the Big Island. The moon is down, the horizon lost in darkness. There is only rock underfoot, stars above, salt in the air, waves breaking below at the edge of a vast, black sea. Maui is out there, too, 30 miles distant, and Harry is headed there. ) He puts on his goggles, slathers on lanolin, stretches. He tries to forget the images he saw a few hours earlier. Then, he’d been indoors, relishing a mutton dinner when his host brought up the annual shark hunt off ‘Upolu Point and described its simple and unfailing M.O.: Slaughter a cow, drag it out to sea, watch the sharks swarm in. Harry had laughed nervously. “Do you still do that?” he asked. “Oh yeah,” replied his host. “In fact, we just had one last week. I’ve got footage of it.” Out came the projector and home movies filled with blood, flesh and frenzy. In the waters Harry was about to swim through.) Now he is standing on the cliff. If he makes it to Maui, he will be the first known person to swim this channel. The darkness, the distance, the sharks, all hang in the air.

The darkness, the distance, the sharks.
Darkness, distance, sharks.
Harry jumps off the cliff.