Chicago-area open water swimmer Ted Erikson has died at the age of 93. In 1961, Erikson became the first person to swim across Lake Michigan. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Erikson wanted his ashes to be scattered in the same Lake that he conquered 60 years ago.
Erikson was a research chemist, with a Masters in chemistry from the Illinois Institute of Technology, who began swimming because he “needed some exercise”. He was still swimming up until a few months ago when an injury forced him into rehab.
In 1965, Erikson became the second person to swim the English channel round-trip (England to France and then back to England), setting a record time of 30 hours and 3 minutes. That record stood until Erikson’s son, Jon, broke it a decade later.
In addition to his Lake Michigan and English Channel swims, in 1967 Erikson completed a 28 mile swim from the Farallon Islands to the Golden Gate Bridge through Great White shark-infested waters. According to Erikson’s daughter, the captain in the boat following Erikson had a rifle that he used to “shoot at sharks that were getting too close”.
Erikson is a member of the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame. He also worked at the Illinois Institute of Technology for 21 years and taught math, physics, and chemistry at Hammond Technical High School.