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Series: D98975 Image#: 4 Date: 05-14-1956
Bert Thomas swims from Seattle to Tacoma. A crowd estimated at 5,000 waits below the Old Tacoma Dock in the early morning hours to view the last lap of a swim that began at Fauntleroy; an 18.5 mile stretch that would take approximately 15 hours to swim. The crowd huddles around bonfires, listens to portable radios and speak quietly with friends as they wait for a glimpse of Thomas's white swimming cap. Some individuals wait for 5 - 6 hours. Photographs ordered by the Tacoma News Tribune. Thomas, a 275 lb. ex Marine frogman, was best known for his successful swim across the Strait of Juan de Fuca. He became the first man in history to swim the 19 mile tide-ridden route from Port Angeles to Victoria B.C., succeeding on his fifth attempt. He was now attempting to swim from Seattle to Tacoma, an 18.5 mile tide-ridden expanse of 40 degree water. His first attempt in February lasted less than 2 hours and his second in April fell 6 miles short after 9 hours of swimming; both attempts foiled as the tide turned against him. Thomas had been tested extensively to find out how he could survive a swim in such low temperatures.
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Series: D98975 Image#: 2 Date: 05-15-1956
Tacoma distance swimmer Bert Thomas is embraced by his wife Mary at the end of his swim from West Seattle to Old Tacoma on May 15, 1956. Thomas swam the 18.5 miles in 15 hours, 23 minutes in 40 degree water battered by high winds and the tide. His feet touched the bottom for the first time at 3:05 a.m., 15 feet out from the shore. Visibly exhausted, he staggered in to shore and collapsed in his wife's arms. He appeared ghostly white with blue lips. His wife struggled to get him into his bathrobe to warm up. When he could speak, the ex-frogman's first words were "Man, it was quite a haul." Mrs. Thomas had supported him on the swim, aboard the "Sharon Two." She fed him through a tube every hour and lit the cigarette that he smoked, continuing the swim on his back. Also aboard the craft was his 12 year old daughter Sharon and Erling Bergerson. The other support craft was the "Memories," skippered by George Peterson. (TNT 5-15-1956, p.1) ALBUM 9.
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Series: D98975 Image#: 1 Date: 05-15-1956
Tacoma distance swimmer Bert Thomas is embraced by his mother, Nadine (Mrs. Fred) Dimond of 1209 1/2 Pacific Ave., at the end of his swim from West Seattle to Old Tacoma in May, 1956. Thomas swam the 18.5 miles in 15 hours, 23 minutes. He was determined to complete the swim on his third try as a belated Mother's Day gift for his mom. He entered the frigid 46 degree water at 11:35 a.m. on May 14, 1956 and touched bottom for the first time at 3:05 a.m. on May 15th several hundred yards east of the Old Tacoma Dock. He swam close to the east shore using back eddies and battling the high winds and tides. Money was raised as he swam to finance future swims. He next planned to swim the English Channel in the fall. (TNT 5-15-1956, pg. 1) ALBUM 9.
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Series: D98974 Image#: 1 Date: 05-15-1956
Singer Helen O'Connell, unglamorous with a scarf over her hair and wrapped in a Tacoma Police pea jacket, gives Bert Thomas, Tacoma distance swimmer, a victory kiss at the end of his swim from West Seattle to Old Tacoma. Beginning his swim on May 14th, 1956, Bert swam the 18.5 mile, tide-ridden expanse of 40 degree water in 15 hours, 23 minutes. O'Connell was headlining the revue at the 1956 Greater Tacoma Home Show and she took this opportunity to remind Bert of their "date" for Thursday night. Thursday the Home Show featured "Bert Thomas Night" with a special program organized by the Tacoma Athletic Club. Mayor Tollefson had proclaimed Thursday "Bert Thomas Day" in Tacoma. During the evenings swim, the public had pledged $1500 to finance future swims by Thomas. (TNT 5-15-1956, p.4) ALBUM 9.
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Series: D96176 Image#: 2 Date: 01-19-1956
Famed long-distance swimmer, Bert Thomas, a 275-pound ex-Marine frogman who conquered the Strait of Juan de Fuca, checks the January, 1956, temperature of Puget Sound. Dick Beckman and Betty Jane McGuigan hold a thermometer sign registering 45 degrees. On the night of January 26th, Thomas attempted the first long-distance, cold water, midwinter endurance swim in history and the first 18 nautical mile swim between Seattle and Tacoma. After 1 hour and 20 minutes in the water, Thomas ended his swim due to frigid winds and 42 degree choppy waters. For the Tacoma Athletic Commission. ALBUM 9.
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Series: C148179 Image#: 1 Date: 07-00-1955
Copy of customer print. Champion long distance swimmer Bert Thomas, extreme right, is pictured in July, 1955, with the official reception committee after swimming the Straits of Juan de Fuca. Mr. Thomas, a 275-lb. former logger and ex-Marine, was the first person to successfully swim the icy waters of the Straits of Juan de Fuca, a distance of 18.3 miles, on July 8th. It was his fifth try and took him 11 hours to complete. He would go on to further acclaim as the only man to swim from Seattle to Tacoma, a journey of 18.5 miles, in May, 1956. Mr. Thomas passed away at the age of 46 in June, 1972. Photograph ordered by Mrs. W.T. Will on March 25, 1966.