In the press.

From Robben Island to shore under water

The Long Walk to raise funds for the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital

Subwalker Model
DAREDEVILS: Matt Silver-Vallance, Braam Malherbe and Sarah T. Carter, will attempt to walk from Robben Island to Cape Town’s mainland on the ocean floor, using a ’subwalker’. PICTURE: REUTERS

HE MADE international headlines last year when he attempted a daring flight from Robben Island to Cape Town’s mainland with 160 helium balloons. And now “balloon bloke” Matt Silver-Vallance is at it again – but instead of flying above water to the mainland, he plans to walk there under water.

He will be joined on the “Long Walk” by extreme adventurer and conservationist Braam Malherbe and diver and diving instructor Sarah T Carter. Silver-Vallance said the plan was to undertake the 7.8km walk on April 27, 2016, on Freedom Day.

As with the balloon flight, the Long Walk is a project of the Launchpad for Charity Foundation and aims to raise funds for the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital. The 200-bed paediatric hospital is expected to open in Joburg in 2016. Silver-Vallance, the foundation’s cofounder, said the purpose of the organisation was to prove that what seems impossible is possible, inspired by the Nelson Mandela quote: “It always seems impossible, until it’s done.”

He came to the idea of the Long Walk after a discussion with the Big Bay Surf Lifesavings Club’s Derrick Frazer who told him that when he placed anchored buoys along the swim route from Robben Island to Blouberg the maximum depth was only 15m.

Matt Silver-Vallance explaining the importance and value that the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital will have for sub-Saharan Africa

A team at Cape Peninsula University of Technology’s ocean engineering team is developing a device, which the walkers will use on their underwater journey. According to the university’s website, Dirk Muller, project manager for the team, said the specialised device called a subwalker would allow the walkers to move freely under water and supply them with a controlled concentration of breathing gas for the approximate seven-hour walk.

The subwalker would cover the walker’s torso and house a variety of equipment, such as batteries and life-support systems. Malherbe, who ran the length (4 200km) of the Great Wall of China in a single attempt in 2006, said the project would not only aim to raise funds for the hospital but also to raise awareness of the marine environment and the importance of sustaining it.

Carter said the team’s preparations would have to be “down to the last tee”. “We will have to be psychologically and physically prepared.”


~ Ilse Fredericks EDUCATION WRITER

~ Original article can be found in the Cape Argus on Thursday, October 30, 2014

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