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Mum and daughter to swim world's strongest whirlpool

While some mums and their daughters are lounging by a hotel pool this summer, Sarah and Ellen Taylor will be taking a rather intrepid dip just north of the Arctic Circle.

They are aiming to be the first females to swim across the Saltstraumen maelstrom – the world’s strongest whirlpool, in Norway.

Ellen Taylor and mum Sarah (9896645)
Ellen Taylor and mum Sarah (9896645)

Incredibly, Sarah, 54, and Ellen, 23, are also planning to be the first to do the 250m swim without wearing wetsuits. The water temperature is likely to be a chilly 12 degrees Celsius.

Ellen said: “We’re really looking forward to the challenge. Mum has swum the Channel and I’ve got into swimming myself over the past few years.

“This is something we want to do together.”

The pair, from Wormegay, got a taste of the enormity of the challenge ahead when they visited the site last weekend to meet the pilot who will accompany them on the epic adventure.

Ellen said: “It was quite daunting but really good to see the geography and understand the tides. We got to see it from the boat and overhead from a bridge. We didn’t realise just how big an achievement it would be.”

Saltstraumen strait (9896649)
Saltstraumen strait (9896649)

Ellen, who is studying at Oxford University for a PhD in psychology, had the idea for the swim after crossing the third strongest whirlpool – Corryvreckan in Scotland – on an organised swim holiday last year.

“After doing that I thought what are the first and second stongest?” she said.

“I had a Google and found there are two really big whirlpools and I wondered if anyone had swam those.”

Ellen soon discovered that the only people to have done so were a trio known as The Wild Swimming Brothers - Jack, Calum and Robbie Hudson, from Cumbria. Nobody has attempted it since then in 2016.

Ellen made email contact with the brothers and they have struck up a good friendship.

She said: “The fact that people have done it before is reassuring. Mum and I are doing it in August but we’re not sure of the exact date. We’re having a holiday in Norway and tagging this on. Because it’s in the Arctic Circle, August is the best time for it.”

For Sarah, a vet at Mill House Vets in Lynn, and Ellen it will be a personal feat rather than a fundraising venture, but they are keen to raise awareness of plastic pollution in our seas.

Ellen’s currently getting into the River Thames every day as part of a challenge to complete an outdoor swim each day for a year. Her preferred venue for a dip when she’s back home in West Norfolk is Hunstanton - a far cry from the Saltstraumen where every six hours 400 million cubic metres of water rush through the strait between two islands at speeds of up to 20 knots.

This creates multiple whirlpools, each reaching up to 10 metres in diameter. Meanwhile, jellyfish and killer whales are other hazards for those in the water to contend with.


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