He defied the waves
Sabrina F Ahmad
Slight of figure and quiet of voice, he hides his face under a cap and keeps a low profile, and seems almost invisible. No one who's met the shy Salmad Saeed at IUB would believe he holds an impressive swimming record. Yet it's true; Saeed was a member of the swim team that crossed the Bay of Bengal by swimming from Teknaf to St. Martin's Island earlier this year, crossing the 14.4 km distance within 5 hours and 10 minutes. According to all known accounts, this was the first time a local snorkel team has attempted such a feat.
Saeed is the member of a five-member adventure club for youths called Daccabasecamp. The other members, also important players in this tale of strength and courage, are Fazlul Kabir Sina, Rafiqul Islam, Lipton Sarker, and Kamal Anwar Babu. Three years ago, they met up with Hamidul Huq a well-known underwater photographer by profession from New York, now settled in Azimpur, Dhaka, who was the visionary behind this expedition.
On December 23, 2004 the five adventurers, led by Hamidul Huq, set sail aboard a 33 ft long boat from Dhaka to St. Martin's island. This was the very first attempt at the expedition, which later on had to be abandoned due to rough sea caused by the tsunami that occurred that year.
After a month spent on St Martin's island, the team returned to Dhaka.
|Saeed getting ready
The big swim begins
Daccabasecamp decided to make a second attempt in January 2006. Accordingly an expedition team was formed, with Fazlul Kabir Sina being the team leader, Rofiqul Islam being the route and rescue manager, while Kamal Anwar Babu, Salman Saeed and Lipton Sarker handling camera and equipment. Accompanying the team were photojournalist AKM Shahidullah, Towhid as CPR and trauma management and Rashid as a member of rescue team. On January 12, the team left Dhaka and boarded for Teknaf. The team reached Teknaf on 13 January at about 10.00 hrs. The same day they set off on four-wheelers (locally called Chader Gari) for Shahpuri Island, the furthest corner of Teknaf. They reached at 12:30 hrs and pitched their tents on the beach an hour's walk away from the Shahpuri jetty.
The route and rescue manager made arrangements for a fishing trawler and a dingi boat and local boatman to be present at the starting point. January 14 dawned fair and fine, and all members were up by 6 AM. With packing, dressing and preparations out of the way, the team started off on the trawler, with the dingi tied at the back of the boat.
The three achievers
The swimmers began their historic swim at 8 AM. Fighting high tide for an hour, they pressed forward, nonetheless, scrabbling to reach the island before the next high tide which would occur in another six hours. The seawater was chilly but the morning was glorious. Swimmers looked cheerful and confident. If anyone experienced any inner turmoil, he didn't show it. During the long hours of swimming the trawler was always ahead of the swimmers to navigate for them and the dingi boat with Rafiqul on board, was in constant attendance for the swimmers in case they needed water or any other assistance.
After swimming for about 2 hrs towards St. Martin's, the hazy shadow of the island came to view. Renewed by this sight, the swimmers pushed their minds and bodies forward in search of its shores. However the island was still a great distance away, with the strong current constantly pulling them away from their course. Their teammates on the boats cheered them the whole way, and finally at 1310 hrs, the swim team touched shores, completing the heroic task. They were received by Atik, a representative from the Oceanic Scuba diving center, St Martin's island.
As the sun went down and the barbecue pits were fired up, the team celebrated with gusto. Kudos to the entire team for their achievement, to Hamidul Huq for his training and support, and to Salman Saeed for doing IUB proud!
(R) thedailystar.net 2006