Though Bar Harbor resident Puranjot Kaur did not make it all 44 miles to become the first person to swim all the way around Mount Desert Island, she did make it just shy of 17 miles on her quest before stopping outside Seal Harbor around 5:30 p.m. Friday.
Kaur, 40, said she was suffering from hypothermia after more than 10 hours in the water, which hovered around 60 degrees for most of her journey. Her doctor, Mary Dudzik, had been monitoring Kaur’s physical condition for the entire swim, and made the call that her body temperature had become hypothermic.
Kaur said that as she rounded Otter Point, a strong headwind kicked up, and she began swimming directly into the current. The rough seas made her nauseous, and caused her to take on some salt water, making it difficult to hold down nutrition. She began to feel weak, and with less vigorous movement, her body became hypothermic.
“It was sort of a domino effect. I fought against the wind and waves in that state for close to two hours, until it became clear that my wonderful doctor needed to stop the swim,” said Kaur.
Throughout her swim, crowds gathered at various points along the route, including along the Shore Path in Bar Harbor. She was accompanied by a flotilla of kayakers and two boats — College of the Atlantic’s Osprey, and Ed Monat’s Pisspot.
Kaur’s swim began at Hadley Point, off the Mount Desert Island Narrows, and continued through Bar Harbor, past Sand Beach and Thunder Hole and around the southern tip of MDI. Though Kaur’s swim ended at Seal Harbor, it was supposed to continue past Bass Harbor and up along the western edge of MDI before crossing under the Trenton Bridge and returning to Hadley Point. The entire journey was to have taken her around 24 hours.
Her swim was a fundraiser for Open Table MDI, an organization that she and her husband co-founded, which addresses food insecurity on Mount Desert Island. So far, she has raised more than $29,000 for the organization.
“In this time where so much feels like it’s going wrong in the world, this is something that feels like people can get excited about and rally around,” Kaur told the BDN. “That feels very, very cool.”