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Splash! : 10,000 years of swimming By Howard Means

Release date: 02nd July, 2020
Publisher: Allen & Unwin

List Price: Ł16.99
Our Price: Ł11.99
You Save: Ł5 (29%)
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Regular swimmers, including your reviewer, are puzzled. If pubs and shops are permitted to re-open, why does access to private and municipal swimming pools continue to be denied? According to scientists, if you’re swimming in chlorinated water, the risk of contracting coronavirus is effectively zero because the virus cannot survive in water treated with chlorine.

Given the circumstances, recommending Howards Means’ fascinating Splash! 10,000 years of swimming could augment swimmers’ frustration, but in truth, this is the ideal read for anyone craving a return to the pool.

Means opens in an unusual location: the driest spot on the planet, Wadi Sura in the Gilf Kebire, a plateau in south western Egypt where, in October 1933, a Hungarian explorer, Laszlo Almasy, became the first Westerner to lay eyes on the Cave of Swimmers.

The walls of the caves depict painted figures engaged in a “relaxed version of doggy-paddle” suggesting the Sahara desert was once home to deep lakes; so dry is it today that NASA use the same area to simulate moon landings.

Means moves quickly on, reminding us of evolutionary theory and the need for water before any form of life can develop. We’re then swiftly immersed in biology, a section peppered with facts that indicate our aquatic heritage: for example, when under water, the windpipe of infants aged up to six months automatically closes.

Drawing on historic evidence, this time of carved reliefs from around 870 BC depicting Assyrian warriors in full battle gear swimming with the aid of inflated animal skins, the author suggests that the earliest swimmers required some form of aid, although it wasn’t long before people could swim unassisted. Later, Plato announced that “Man is not learned until he can read, write and swim.”

This gripping history continues through ancient Greece and Rome, is supplemented by extracts from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar ; it meanders through almost four hundred years of swimming history which takes us to the Renaissance and, ultimately, to the modern Olympic Games.

It’s no substitute for the real thing, but this engrossing history will have you craving your next swim, ideally without the assistance of inflated animal skins.

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