PhD candidate joins record-breaking lake swim (UPDATED)

By Jason Winders
July 23, 2013

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Four and a half days after setting off on a record-breaking effort to swim the length of Lake Ontario, a Western PhD candidate and her teammates have called off the pursuit.

“Mother Nature was not on our side. Lake Ontario threw everything she had at us,” said Samantha Whiteside, 23, a Department of Microbiology and Immunology PhD candidate, said in a Toronto Star video. “We got some really horrendous weather. Nothing ever seemed to work out for us. It was either really warm water and ridiculous waves or it was really calm and absolutely freezing.”

The swimmers ended their quest on Friday in Whitby, 60 km short of the projected finish line of Burlington’s Spencer Smith Park.


Samantha Whiteside, a Department of Microbiology and Immunology PhD candidate, joins four other Ontario women on the swim of a lifetime today – a 305-km relay running the length of Lake Ontario.

Starting this morning, the team sets off from Kingston’s Confederation Park, navigating through the Marina Channel and into Lake Ontario. Support boats will follow their journey every stroke of the way as they head to their final destination of Burlington’s Spencer Smith Park approximately five days later.

Whiteside, 23, joins teammates Colleen Shields, 61, Nicole Mallette, 48, Rebekah Boscariol, 18, and Mona Shariri, 18, in the effort. Whiteside, Shields, Mallette and Boscariol have completed the 52-km stretch from Niagara-on-the-Lake to Toronto in the past; Shariri swam the English Channel last year.

A trip across the length of Lake Ontario via relay has never been completed.

The team starts together and continues side-by-side until they reach open waters. At that point, the relay starts with the first swimmer going for two hours, after which time the next swimmer takes over with a tap on the leg. (Whiteside is scheduled third in the lineup.)

Whiteside, who started swimming competitively at 9, crossed Lake Ontario in 2006 in 15 hours and 11 minutes. That number was 72 seconds away from Cindy Nicholas’ fastest female crossing of all time. She tried again in 2007, but pulled out after five hours.

“This time, I just want to be able to associate something positive with Lake Ontario. I just want to finish,” Whiteside told the Toronto Star. “It’s about redemption, I guess.”

The team is raising money for Because I am a Girl, a global initiative to end gender inequality, promote girls’ rights and lift millions of girls – and everyone around them – out of poverty.

Because I am a Girl was founded by Plan International, one of the oldest and largest international charities in the world. Founded in 1937, Plan has supported boys and girls in the developing world for more than 75 years through collaboration with children, their families, and their communities.

Track Whiteside and her team’s progress at


8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
(holidays excluded)


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