Lithuanian plans Baltic Sea swim for environment

VILNIUS (Reuters) - A former Lithuanian triathlete said on Saturday he planned to become the first person to swim across the Baltic Sea to call attention to its environmental problems.

Vidmantas Urbonas, the 1998 world ultra-triathlon champion, is to start on July 22 from Kalmar in southeast Sweden and head for Pavilosta in southwest Latvia, about 209 km (130 miles) away.

The swim could take up to 8 days, depending on the weather, or 4 to 5 days if he swims non-stop.

“I’m not doing it just to prove I can swim across the sea. With the swim I want to draw the attention of people around the sea to its condition, which is catastrophic,” he told Reuters.

Experts say the Baltic Sea is one of the most polluted, made worse by the fact it only has a narrow outlet between Germany and Denmark and cannot easily be supplied with new water.

The swim will begin with a 7 km leg from Kalmar to the neighboring island of Oland. The following day he plans to swim 57 km to Gotland before tackling the final 145 km to Pavilosta.

He will wear a thicker than usual swimming costume and special creams on his skin to protect him from the cold.

The water temperature is currently about 14 degrees Celsius (57 degrees Fahrenheit) to 16 Celsius.

He plans to stop every hour to rest and drink tea and energy drinks and sleep for two hours a day, if the weather is fine. If the weather is bad, he will rest in the boat.

Urbonas had kidney failure in 1999 after swimming 460 km in 8 days down the river Nemunas in Lithuania, swimming 10 hours a day. Last year he tried to swim the 33 km wide English Channel, but failed due to high waves.