Time lapse: Only 20 miles to go ...

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Crossing the English Channel

"Hot coffee by moonlight" reads the caption to the above, suspiciously civilised, scene from the first successful crossing of the English Channel, by Captain Matthew Webb, on 25 August 1875. Webb, coated in porpoise fat, entered the history books in a time of just under 22 hours. Since then only around 5,000 have successfully emulated his feat, fewer than have climbed Everest. Hazards include the risk of hypothermia - temperatures rarely rise above 62F - and the shoals of jellyfish. The main swimming season is from July to September but there are only around 13 days a year on which you stand a reasonable chance, due to the weaker tides. Under the regulations of the Channel Swimming Association, you may be thrown food in polythene bags which you may then attempt to eat while treading (and almost certainly swallowing) water. Where to attach the nighttime light-sticks was among the problems faced by the above team of Channel swimmers who last month successfully made the crossing in relays. Unlike Webb, who wore a silk all-in-one, they swam au naturel as part of British Naturism's "nude tolerance" campaign. "The main motivation," they told The Independent, was "to try to put naturist sport on the general sporting map so that people will take it seriously rather than see it as a curious oddity." Webb, a great curiosity of his day, finally overreached himself in 1883, and drowned while trying to swim the rapids above Niagara Falls.



Nigerian football fan

Nigeria has more than its fair share of problems: corruption, political instability, oil industry pollution. One thing, however, unites and pleases Africa's most populous country: football, and the fortunes of its national squad. But even the zealous dedication of fans such as this one were not enough last year. Nigeria failed to fulfil Pele's prophecy of an African World Cup winner by 2000. A few days before France 98, a cabal of senior players had tried to ditch the coach, Bora Milutinovic. But the night before Nigeria's president, General Sani Abacha, was expected to give the go-ahead for this, he died of a heart attack. Milutinovic survived, and an occasionally dazzling Nigeria went out 4-1 to Denmark in the second round.



New York subway

New York has one of the oldest underground systems in the world, the first sections of which date back to 1904. But by the time this image was taken, in 1960, the 720-mile network was in long-term decline. Not any more. Thanks to the "zero tolerance" policies of mayor Rudolf Giuliani, the subway has cleaned up its act, both in terms of crime and graffiti (so no luck for would-be Keith Harings and Jean-Michel Basquiats, both of whom began their artistic careers spray-painting on the New York subway). Other recent innovations have been less popular. Back in April bosses hatched a plan (subsequently ditched after protests) to drop the word "please" from announcements to help speed up the trains.