According to all the known sources of information, for the very first time a snorkel swim expedition team successfully crossed the Bay of Bengal from Teknaf to St. Martin’s island on 14th January,2006. This is one of the greatest expedition event that took place in the history of Bangladesh.
Mr. Quazi Hamidul Haque a well-known underwater photographer and scuba diver by profession from New York who was then settled in Dhaka thought about this exceptional adventure. He believed that by taking calculated risks, crossing of the Bay of Bengal from Teknaf to St. Martin’s island could be achieved, although the probability of success was only fifty-fifty.
The Daccabasecamp a nonprofit adventure club formed by a handful of young people who love adventure and challenge. They are Mr. Fazlul Kabir Sina, Mr. Rafiqul Islam, Mr. Lipton Sarker, Mr.Salman Saeed and Mr. Kamal Anwar Babu, when they heard about the dream of Mr.Hamid which was to cross the Bay of Bengal by snorkel swimming they become very interested and asked Mr.Hamid if he could train them to which Mr.Hamid agreed. Daccabasecamp then decided to take on the challenge.
The collection of information regarding tides and determining the course of the swim route was done in a month-long boat trip with a 33 ft long boat from Dhaka to St. Martin’s island on December 23rd 2004.
An expedition team has been formed in January 2006 led by Mr. Fazlul kabir sina being the swimmer and team leader, Mr. Salman Saeed and Mr. Lipton Sarker being swimmers, Mr. Rofiqul islam being the route and rescue manager, Mr.Kamal Anwar Babu being the camera and equipment manager. Accompanied with expedition team Mr. AKM Shahidullah as photojournalist and Mr. Towhid as CPR and trauma management and Mr. Rashid as a member of rescue team.
When the team reached Shahpuri island, the three swimmers Sina and Lipton and Salman went into the sea straightway for practice and acclimatization with the sea water and its temperature.
The next day on 14th January 2006 the three swimmers started swimming at 8.00 AM from Shahpuri island. They then had to swim against the high tide for about one hour in order to reach St. Martin’s island within six hours before the starting of the next high tide. During the long hours of swimming the trawler was always ahead of the swimmers to navigate for them and the dingi boat where Mr. Rafiqul was on board was continuously in attendance for the swimmers in case they needed water or any other assistance. Many times, the three swimmers drifted away from the boat, taken by the strong current.
The rescue team from the trawler played a vital role by cheering at the swimmers and encouraging them to hang on as the seemingly impossible task started to draw towards the end. The now exhausted swimmers were able to see the distant island in front of them although they were thinking the journey never going to end. The team successfully reached the shore of St. Martin’s island in a time span of 5 hrs. and 10 minutes thus completed the heroic task. They were received by Mr. Atik of the Oceanic Scuba diving center at St. Martin’s island. For the physically and mentally exhausted swimmers the dry, warm sand of the island was a heaven where the swimmers rested for quite some time as they regained their body temperature. This waterway in Bay of Bengal was named “The Bangla Channel” stretching from Teknaf to St. Martin’s island, derived from out of love for open water swimming.
At the beginning from 2006 to 2011 the distance of Bangla Channel was only 14.4 KM. In order to meet the international criteria of marathon swimming the distance of Bangla Channel was determined at 16.1 km which is stretching from Teknaf fisheries jetty to St. Martin’s island jetty since the year 2012.
After the grand success of Bangla Channel crossing in 2006 which inspired and motivated the youth of our society, Lipton, Sina and the team started to train more young people with fin and snorkel for open water sea swimming. The attempt for the 2007 crossing became an epic event when a number of swimmers managed to cross the distance in Bay of Bengal by snorkel and fin swimming. Since then onwards the continuation of the crossing went on every year. In the year 2012 Bangla Channel crossing reached to another level when Dutchman Mr. Milko Van Gool became first international swimmer who is also a finisher of English Channel crossed the distance by free style swimming. After the year 2012 Bangla Channel Swimming has been recognized as to be the only open water swimming route of Bangladesh till now in the world of open water swimming. And our local swimmers are also following the international standard. This has become one of the greatest and finest adventure sports of Bangladesh.
Bangla Channel swimming acknowledges with gratitude to all swimmers, crew members and it’s sponsors for being part of this adventurous sports without whose contribution the task would not have been possible.
Congratulations to Mr. Quazi Hamidul Haque and the members of the expedition team for their success in the expedition. The inventor of this channel and swimmers of this expedition wish to do this event every year with more people in the team not only from Bangladesh but also from the foreign countries. They are ready to train up more youngsters in this kind of expedition.
The next Bangla channel crossing will be held on 15th of March 2018 where 25 numbers of swimmers including local and international are expected to take attempt for crossing the Bangla Channel.
Photo and Written : Shwaroz Adventure