Informal Learning is really just the right moment for an opportunity to learn – Opportunity Learning.
This past Saturday, Sept 17, a friend from high school years swam the English Channel. Not surprising as Mike was on the swim team back in school and still holds a couple school records almost 30 years later.
Michael J. Solberg pursued a career as a Pastor and is the Senior Pastor of Second Congregational Church in Rockford, IL. Still not sure why, but at some point he felt the pull to do something challenging. On his website he writes:
And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” (Genesis 1:2)
“It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.” (Walt Disney)
That may account for the water, but what about the swimming? And what about the 21 miles of 60 degree water and powerful tides between Dover and Calais? Well, that’s where Walt Disney comes in.
It’s hard to explain why I am going to do this, but it has something to do with those two quotes. In water I feel peace, as if the Spirit of God is still moving upon the face of the waters. Life was created in water, and water still gives life.
I want to swim the English Channel for another reason as well: to raise money to build a school in Waku Kungo, Angola. Angola is not a “sexy” African country. It has no big animals, no rainforest, no tribal nomads with face paint. It has instead the results of a 27 year civil war, from which the country is now emerging. And it has hope – the hope of a peaceful future, the hope of recontruction, the hope of it’s children, who deeply long for education.
Read more at SwimMikeSwim
He’s a “Friend” of mine on Facebook, too and leading up to this day I looked forward to his updates about planning, training, and all the logistics involved. It intrigued me. He spent 10 days in England waiting for just the right winds, water temp, and tides. The suspense was overwhelming and on Saturday, September 19 he announced he was entering the water at 11:30 AM local time (5:30 AM CST). I was captured.
He set up a GPS satellite tracking site at Spot Adventures so we could follow live updates on his location. As well, his guide riding in the support boat tweeted using @SwimMikeSwim giving constant updates. I found myself early that Saturday morning with my cup of coffee and laptop glued to the twitter feed and satellite tracking.
As I sat there watching and following the updates, I got lost in thought about the amazing effort that had to go into such an event. The training alone boggles the mind, but all the planning and logistics were capturing my curiosity. This was a perfect opportunity to learn something new!
As I followed the satellite tracking, I noticed shipping routes, tide reports, water temps, etc. I became very interested in the English Channel and began asking myself questions: How wide is it? What path will he take? What’s the water temp now and what is the average temp of the channel? How do the tide waters impact such an event? Why do the winds play a factor and what wind speed is the best? Wikipedia became my new friend that morning!
Mike’s website offered some guidance to my new found curiosity. Did you know there is a website dedicated to simply swimming the English Channel? I didn’t, but I do now at the Channel Swimming & Piloting Federation site.
Another interesting site is The Beaufort Wind Force Scale that I found myself studying. From Mike’s narrative blog entry, he writes:
The sea turned out to be “smooth,” or “slight” at the worst (those are actually official levels of sea conditions on the Beaufort Scale). That makes everything much more manageable than it is in rougher water, from rhythm and focus, to feeding, to the steady position of the boat, and more.
This satellite image shows Mike’s path across the channel. I really became curious (and worried) that he had got off track somehow at points 38 and 39. Why was he swimming back north?
This zig zag route is due to the ebb tides and current and I learned that missing the entry point of landing can add as much as 1-2 hours to the swim! Also, over a 1,000 people have swam (swum; swimmed) the channel and no one ever swims straight across. Didn’t know that.
He finally made it at 13 hours, 31 minutes, and 21 seconds for a total distance of 33.2 miles from Samphire Hoe, England, to Wissant, France. Holy Paddle Wheel Batman! That’s a long time to be in the water, let alone swimming!
He’s raised $32,358 to-date on his way to the goal of $50,000 for that school in Angola. If you’re interested in donating or just dropping by and congratulating him, you can read all about his mission here SwimMikeSwim
More on his Blog:
I learned more about the English Channel and endurance swimming than I ever would have thought, let alone wanted. Way to go Mike and thanks for the “Learning Opportunity!”