Swmmiing, the art of keeping the body afloat and propelling it by means of the hands and feet. The swimming of man is artificial, but as the specific gravity of the human body is very little greater than that of water, it can bo floated with little difficulty. The support is greatly increased by propulsion, just as a thin flat stone is prevented from sinking by projecting it with force against the surface of the water. In learning to swim, the first essential is confidence; the pupil then learns to keep the body afloat; and when he knows how to apply the extremities to the water with a view to propulsion he can swim. Confidence is best assured in this way: Let the pupil wade out breast deep, face about, and toss an egg or a white pebble into the water between himself and the shore and plunge after it. In struggling to reach it he will find himself buoyed up by the water, and will learn that it is easier to swim than to sink. This was Dr. Franklin's suggestion, and the most recent manuals recommend it. Some teachers inspire confidence and at the same time teach the propulsory movements by holding the pupil on the fiat of the hand and then removing the support, leaving him to float and propel himself. The use of corks, bladders, and life preservers retards instruction, and is now nearly obsolete.
The pupil learns first to swim on the chest. He assumes as nearly as he can a horizontal position, with the breast prone to the water and the heels as near as possible to the surface. To effect propulsion, the arms and legs are simultaneously flexed and drawn slowly toward the body, and then are simultaneously and rapidly extended. The two hands should be kept flat, the fingers closed, the thumb placed by the side of the first finger, and the pupil should reach forward with his hands as far as he can, for the farther forward he reaches the faster will he swim. He then draws both legs well up, and while each hand is brought around, one to the right and the other to the left, he strikes out simultaneously and strongly with his legs. The secret of a good stroke is to kick out with the legs wide apart. The propelling power is secured by the legs being brought from a position in which they are placed wide apart to one in which they are close together like the blades of a pair of scissors. In this position the heels should touch each other, and in drawing up the legs the toes should be pointed backward to avoid the resistance of the water against the insteps.
It is a fallacy to suppose that the speed of the swimmer in any degree depends upon the resistance of the water against the soles, or that large flat feet are aids, unless it may be in treading water. Breast swimming is the commonest and easiest method, and the only one possible for long distances. But the prone position of the body presents a large resisting surface; the arms and legs are spread out on either side of the trunk, and so are applied but partially as propellers, the most effective part of the stroke corresponding say to a quarter of an ellipse, while the remaining three quarters are dovoted to getting the arms and legs into position, which wastes power and increases friction. To obviate these difficulties, scientific swimmers have recently adopted the side stroke. The swimmer throws himself on the left side (a good swimmer on either side), and advances the left arm in a curve, making it act as a cutwater, while the right arm directed downward and backward and the legs make a powerful stroke. The right arm and legs thus give three limbs moving simultaneously in the same direction, the left arm always moving in an opposite direction. The right arm and legs are flexed and carried forward while the left arm is forced backward, and vice versa.
The strong backward stroke of the three limbs gives a powerful forward impulse, and as the body is on the side, as on a keel, the resistance is much reduced. The overhand stroke is similar, only in reaching forward the arm is brought out of the water, and the swimmer, advancing the right and left sides of the body alternately, secures greater continuity of motion and materially reduces the friction. Both these methods are much faster but more exhausting than breast swimming, and are practicable only for short distances, in saving life and in races. The speed attained by these strokes is indicated by the recent record of professional swimmers in London; in baths 400 yards have been swum in 5 m. 10 sec, 500 in 7 m. 27 sec, and 1,000 in the Serpentine in 16 m. 43 sec. With a strong favoring tide in the Thames a mile has been swum in 11 m. 43 sec, two in 23 m. 13 sec, three in 35 m. 23 sec, four in 48 m. 19 sec, and five in G4 m. 23 sec. Swimming on the back is more easily learned than breast swimming, and the body being more nearly horizontal, it is not difficult to swim by using the legs only, with the arms folded over the chest.
In treading water, the swimmer's body is in an upright position, with the head well out, and a rapid movement of the feet as in ascending steps is the sustaining and propelling power; the hands may be out of the water or may be used to assist in propulsion. Both these methods are reliefs in long swims. In diving, the hands are brought together in front to cleave the water and protect the head, and the legs are kept straight, the heels touching each other. If the diver desires to come almost instantly to the surface again, he has only to direct his hands upward above his head. To float on the back, the swimmer suffers the back of the head to be submerged, the face only being above water; the hands are extended and the legs partially flexed and spread so as to offer the greatest possible floating surface. In attempting to save a drowning person, the swimmer should approach him from behind, and keep him from sinking by raising him by the hair, or by placing the hands under his armpits, taking care that the straggler does not seize him, or both may be drowned. An exhausted or cramped swimmer may be supported by placing his hand on the shoulder of another swimmer. As salt water is more buoyant than fresh, it is easier to swim in it.
The best time for the exercise is in the forenoon between breakfast and luncheon, when the stomach is neither full nor empty. For swimming matches the training is like that for any other exercise, which, according to Capt. Webb, the channel champion, "simply means a healthy life." - In ancient times Leander, according to Greek tradition, swam the Hellespont from Abydos to Sestos; and on March 3, 1810, Lord Byron and Lieut. Eckenhead swam over the same course in 70 minutes, which till recently has been regarded as the greatest feat of the kind in modern times. In 1849 John Leahy, then a British soldier in quarters at Aden, and since 1868 teacher of swimming at Eton college, swam in the Red sea 2½ m. in three quarters of an hour. In August, 1868, Harry Parker swam in the Serpentine 500 yards in 7 m. 45 sec. On Aug. 5, 1872, in the lake at Hendon, near London, J. B. Johnson swam a mile in 26 minutes, doing the first half mile in 12 minutes. In 1874 Matthew Webb, then 26 years old, swam out as far as Varne buoy, 10 m. off Folkestone, and was in the water 4½ hours. The year 1875 is memorable for extraordinary swimming feats.
On April 10 Paul Boyton of New Jersey attempted to cross the English channel from Dover in a swimming costume invented by Capt. C. S. Merriman of New York. He was in the water nearly three hours, propelling himself with a paddle having a blade at each end, accomplishing as the tide and waves carried him about 27 m.; and after tossing about three hours more in the surf, he was taken on board a steamer. On May 29 he successfully crossed from Capo Gris Nez to South Foreland, 3 m. from Dover, by his course about 36 m., in 23 hours. These were hardly swimming feats, but the usefulness of the costume and means of propulsion in saving life and property on the water was fully demonstrated. On July 3 Webb swam from Blackwall pier to Gravesend, 20 m., in 4 h. 42 m. 44 sec. On July 23, at Chester, Pa., in a match with Coyle, J. B. Johnson swam 10½- m. in 3 h. 10 m. On Aug. 12 Webb made his first attempt to cross the channel. He swam out from Dover 18½ m. in 6 h. 45 m., when on account of the roughness of the sea he was taken on board a lugger. On Aug. 24-25 he successfully crossed from Dover to Calais, the tide making his course a zigzag of about 50 m., in a little less than 22 h.
He had no other covering than a coating of porpoise oil, and received no refreshment but hot coffee, beef tea, cod-liver oil, and an occasional sip of brandy, which he took while treading water. On Sept. 1 Agnes Beckwith, 14 years old, daughter of a teacher of swimming, swam from London bridge to Greenwich pier, about 5 m., in 1 h. 7 m. 45 sec. On Sept. 4 Emily Parker, 14 years and 6 months old, sister and pupil of Harry Parker, the champion swimmer of London, swam the same distance in 1 h. 8 m. - Illustrated treatises on swimming with instructions may be found in Walker's "British Manly Exercises" (London, 1844; latest ed., 1874), and in "Animal Locomotion, or Walking, Swimming, and Flying," by J. Bell Pettigrew (London and New York, 1875). Sergeant Leahy has published "The Art of Swimming in the Eton Style," with a preface by Mrs. Oliphant (Norwich, 1875), and Capt. Webb "The Art of Swimming," edited by A. G. Payne (London, 1875).