(often misspelled Boynton) (b. June 29, 1848 in Ratthangan, Kildare County, Ireland — April 19, 1924), known as the Fearless Frogman, was a showman and adventurer some credit as having spurred worldwide interest in water sports as a hobby, particularly open-water swimming. Boyton, whose birthplace is variously listed as Dublin or Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is best known for his water stunts that captivated the world, including crossing the English Channel in a novel rubber suit that functioned similarly to a kayak.
Monday, October 5, 2009
Crossing The Straits Of Gibraltar
Moving on to Gibraltar:
Determined to cross the Straits of Gibraltar, with very little encouragement, constantly being warned about the sharks, supposedly numerous in these waters.
An English officer took Paul to the back of the Abators, this building is on the water, so he could see the large blue sharks waiting on the offal, that's thrown from this slaughter house,
this was not enough to make Paul change his mind, as he continued his plans for the trip.
To paddle from Gibraltar to Ceuta, which is almost straight across the straits, as the currents would not let him do this, the plan was changed to Tarifa, the lowest land in Europe. From this point he should be able to strike the African coast. The Spanish felucca, San Augustine, was chartered for the two men from Gibraltar and the captain with a crew of five sailors. Thursday, March 19th, they sailed from Gibraltar. Nearing the Spanish side, flying the American flag, when they were pulled up by a Spanish gunboat, searching the San Augustine as they were under the impression that, they were smuggling tobacco, it was extremely hard to get the officials to understand what Paul was planning to do, finally allowing them to continue the voyage.
Arriving off Tarifa at 11 pm, the captain refused to cross without clearance papers. Going into the old Moorish looking town, waking up one sleepy official after another, it was not until seven the next morning, before they could get clearance papers. Sharks were not the only danger Paul had to deal with, the wind and currents are usually variable. In the middle the current could be eastward, on each side both flood and ebb tides extend between a quarter of a mile to two miles from the shore, this can change several times a day, according to the weather and winds.
Seven thirty am, Paul was dressed and ready to set off, for the first time in all his voyages, he took the precaution of screwing sharp steel sword blades to each end of his double bladed paddle, with these he felt confident that he could stand up in the water and rip open any shark that approached him, also carrying a large dagger fastened to his wrist. Jumping into the sea amidst the enthusiastic cheering crowds that had assembled on the beach to see him start.
Paddling out to a rock close to Tarifa lighthouse, known to be the extreme southern point of Europe, which he touched, then turned and waved an “adieu” to Spain. Starting his journey, paddling southward in smooth seas with calm weather, he was in excellent spirits, a
nd fully confident of success, as he continued paddleing southward, he expected to meet the current going eastward, that would carry him towards Malabata, being directly across from Tarifa.
His calculations were off, as the current was now going in the opposite direction, westward as it gradually took him west.
Shortly after eight o’clock in the morning, Paul singing as he paddled along and came very close to running into a school of porpoises, a couple of shots were fired into them from the felucca, scaring them off, it’s believed that sharks follow them. A few moments later another school appeared, again shots were fired, this time it was successful. Realizing the current was taking him too far west, he turned his course due south, with the rising winds, he attached a small square sail to his boot, this did not improve his performance as he had hoped. After passing over Cabezes Shoals, the wind began picking up, he was still being carried westward, now nine thirty in the morning, Paul hauled up for a quick breakfast of bread and cheese. Paddling along, he once again became creative, by tieing a white square handkerchief, to an eighteen foot cord from his belt , allowing the handkerchief to drift astern, this was another precaution against sharks, as it’s known, their malevolent impulses are more likely to be excited, as they attack white objects. The idea was that a shark attacking the handkerchief, would jerk the cord, that would then warn him of it’s presence, giving Paul time to prepare for the attack.
The wind increasing from the east, Paul again tried the sail, but found it ineffectual, still steering south towards Malabata Point, about nine miles from Tarifa, though paddl
ing all this time he was not tired. The westward current continued, the risk of being carried into the Atlantic became greater. He again turned his course southeast and fought to maintain it, as the British steamer Glenarn, eastward bound, passed him with loud cheers from the people on her deck.
Two thirty in the afternoon, a strong wind, with a rapid eastward current, caused a high sea, causing Boyton to have difficulty keeping close to the boat, as his distance increased every moment, until he disappeared from her sight. The captain’s concerns grew, ordering the sailors to pull harder, about twenty minutes later he was sighted more than a half a mile ahead, as the sail was hoisted on the felucca they were able to close the gap,
which was done with a lot of effort by the anxious crew.
The captain and crew of the boat, advised him to give up the attempt to cross, with their extensive experience of the straits, it is impossible, under the current conditions to complete the crossing. Boyton positively refused to give up the undertaking as he forged on ahead undeterred and in positive spirits, as the felucca soon discovered, it was impossible to keep up with him, with oars only. The boats sails were reefed and hoisted as the steering was close hauled, they were still barely able to keep him in sight.
Three o’clock in the afternoon, Paul was half way across, keeping south south east, as the wind continued to increase, as did the danger of him being carried into the ocean. With the waves constantly breaking over him, and the salt encrusting on his eyebrows, his skin smarted from the irritation. It was almost five o’clock and he was just off Boassa Point, bearing south, with only about three and a half miles from the African coast. Making another attempt to use the sail, but the wind was too strong and he had to give it up.
It began to grow darker as the wind increased with fears of a gale building up, the boisterous sea and wind in conjunction with rapid currents and heavy waves, caused the boat to loose sight of Paul. After cruising around in all directions and yelling at the top of their voices, the captain, crew and his friends were relieved to hear his distant response. Finally catching up with him, the crew became adamant in their language, as they insisted he give it up, and come on board as they were all drifting into the Atlantic ocean.
Boyton however was firm and determined to keep going, until he reached the African coast, seeing no other way to stop him, three of the crew, leaned over the boat’s side and tried to drag him on board forcefully, this attempt annoyed Paul, as he stood up in the water glaring at them and threatened to attack any man with the sword blade who dareed to touch him again. The men took to their oars as Paul started singing, with the intention of calming down the situation as he paddled away. Seven thirty, the felucca St. Augustine again lost sight of Paul, the current with the heavy waves, constantly caused him to go under as it washed over him, the boats crew, were having a rough time riding over the huge waves, as they again searched for any sight of Paul. The current now going eastward to La Ballesta, he was again sighted after a lapse of twenty minutes, the increasing darkness and bad weather, was causing a lot of hard work for those on the boat, keeping up with him.
I am the Great Niece of Captain Paul Boyton, after the death of my older brother in California, I came across an old New York Irish Times with an article on Michael Boyton, my Great Grandfather, that he had some
While researching the article I found Captain Paul, the book will tell you the story of his amazing journeys.
Born in South Africa, and brought up in Rhodesia. Centeral Africa I moved to the United States at the
end of 1983.
After giving the new Zimbabwe a chance, but within three years the writing was on the wall and I realized my two teenage children and I had no future there.
To Michel Lopez, Historian at Le Manns University Paris.
For his assistance and sharing all his research with me, plus all the people who also helped Michael with his research.
Stan Barker and The 1800's Group.
All your the research that you shared with me and support.
Geraldine Dudley, Caps Grand daughter for the loan of photos and sharing the stories passed down through the family
The Story Begins on the Allegheny PA. July 1858:
The Allegheny PA: July 1858
First attempt at navigation: The Grey Eagle.
Voyage on a coal fleet. The Red Lion, New Orleans and slave sale.
Rescued little Thomas Mc Caffery from drowning.
College Days: Bruce's dam, swimming with snakes. Squirrels.
USA Navy April 15th 1864:Brooklyn Ship Yard NY. USA Steamer, Hydrangea with
Captain W Rogers. The James River past Malvern Hill. His last engagement was the memorable assault on Fort Fisher, at the end of the war he mustered out a Yeoman.
Submarine and Diving in the West Indies: Aboard the bark the Reindeer heading for Barbadoes. Captain Balbo, diving for treasure.
June 2nd 1867:Cape May selling coral and ocean treasure. Life saving and competing with the native boatmen. Fall fire destroys his business in Cape May.
He left with the expression: If you wish to make an enemy in life "Just save his life or lend him money." December 1869 his father passed away. Became a Mexican Revolutionist.
January 1870: Paul embarked on the New York headed for Liverpool then onto Havre as an American Volunteer a Franc-Tireur in the Prussian-War. Earning 30c a day. Failed Cuban expedition.
*** Submarine diver: The Diamond Fields of South Africa. A floating hell and the escape at Malaga.
*** The rubber suit (dress): Overboard from the Steamer Queen. Landing on the Coast of Ireland.
*** Arriving in Queenstown: Appearing for Queen Victoria.
*** Crossing The English Channel. Pigeon dispatches and landing in England.
*** Germany: Voyage down The Rhine. Through the Lurlei Wirlpool. The press boat with James Creelman.
*** The Mississippi:Short run with the Funny Negro Pilot. Down the Danube and the Po.
Attacked by fever. Lucretia Borgia's castle.
*** Voyage on the Arno from Florence to Pisa: Narrow escape over the falls.
Down the Tiber to Rome. Across the bay of Naples.Knited by King Victor Emmanuel.
*** The Straights of Messina:Attacked by sharks. Whirlpools of Scylla and Charybdis.
*** Quick voyage down the Rhone:Smuggler's chain. Gambling Palace of Monte Carlo.
Down the Loire. Stuck in quick sand.
*** Mysterious Targus: Toledo to Lisbon. The great falls and dark canyons.
Ancient Moorish masonry. Villianous Brigands.
*** Europe to Africa: Straits of Gibraltar. Preparing for sharks. Currents and heavy over falls. Landing at Tangier.
*** Paddling in the ice floes on the Allegheny: Down the Ohio to Cairo.
Queer characters. On the Mississippi again. Starange sights and sounds. The comical darkies.
Alligators and the dead man in a boat.
*** Voyage on the Merrimac: Peculiar people. Rough trip down the Connecticut. Lost in a snow storm. A winter in Florida.
*** South America: Officer in Peruvian Service. Placing Torpedoes. Caverns of the sea- Sea Children. Inca Tombs. Escape from prison. Rescue from a lonely island.
*** Upper Mississippi: German doctor. Negro boatman. Arrival in Cairo. Hunting and fishing.
*** The Longest Voyage: Down the Yellowstone and Missouri. The Western Wilds.
Indian Tepees. Chief Sittingbull. Caving banks, snags and mud sucks. Rustler's camp.
*** Hunting in the Southern Bayous: Voyage down the Arkansaw. Haytien insurgents. Down the Sacramento. A night on Great Salt Lake. Down the Hudson.
March 12th 1889. Columbia River, Astoria, Seaside and Tilamok catching seals. Gone to Davey Jone's Locker on the Washington coast.
*** Paul retires: The Remark made by Cap Paul at the end of the book note taking: "Well thank goodness, we are through, and now I can get out for a little fresh air again."
During the summer he was almost in the water daily with his company of aquatic experts.
The winters were spent inventing and perfecting new devices for water amusement parks.
Cap Paul went on to open the very first amusement park in Coney Island with sea lions, and followed up with Shoot The Schutes. There are several books and info available on Coney Island.
On the morning of April 15th, 1864, young Boyton presented himself at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and was enrolled in the United States Navy as a sailor before the mast. After a few weeks of drilling he was transferred to the United States Steamer, Hydrangea, Captain W. Rogers in command, Paul was now just fifteenth years old.
He had no difficulty in passing the scrutiny of enlisting officers. With a powerful build and very muscular, his outdoor life in the woods and on rivers made him look older than he really was.
The Hydrangea was ordered to Fortress Monroe, and Paul received his baptism of fire while the steamer was running up the James River past Malvern Hill, where a confederate battery was stationed. Much has been written about the war, and as this is simply a story of adventure, it will be left to better writers to record the war history many of whom have already described scenes enacted in that vicinity during the war of 1864.
The last engagement Paul was in, was the memorable assault on Fort Fisher. When the war ended, he mustered out.
At that time he held the position of yeoman.
Knighted Four Times In Europe
PHOTOS FROM MY COLLECTION
Below are several original portrait photos that I have been lucky enough to acquire from the 1800' s of Captain Paul in his Rubber Suit.
Have not as yet been able to confirm which exploration Cap was involved in.
Cap in full dress.
Vulcanised Indian Rubber Suit, Also Known As Dress
The Air Pockets
Rubber Suit Race in London
Challenging Captain Paul
Starting To Cross The English Channel
First Attempt April 17th 1875. 3 am
May 1875 Second Attempt Was Sucessful
Brother Michael in attendance!
On Their Way To The Finish
They Had To Abandon This Attempt To A Storm Just Six Miles From Shore. Pg 109
Map Of The Channel Crossing
Showing the route of the swim.
The Flower Girls
Paul was very uncomfortable with all the attention.
The ladies swarmed him while the European Gentry showered him with invitations to banquets, all clamering for his presence at their functions..
Cap Birgham Eng. 1870
ROME: The General And The Carpenter.
From Florence Paul went to Rome, where he visited General Pescetto, Italian Minister of Marine (Navy), with whom he had a pleasant conversation, during which Paul’s meeting with his son on the Po was mentioned.
“What can I do for you?” cordially asked the General.
“Well,” answered Paul, “my business is introducing my Life Saving Suit, which will help you save many lives on the coast, as well as on the Men-of-War that you are now building.”
“Ah,” you have proved the value of your rubber suit, I have no doubt of it’s efficiency, but our government has spent vast sums of money for the benefit of shipwrecked sailors,” answered the General. “In regards, to using your suit on our Men-of-War, I fear you don't understand the Italian sailor, should we furnish your life saving suits, our sailors would suspect that the Man-of-War, were not sea worthy, we already have enough trouble getting the young men to enlist.” responded the General. “Suppose I could prove to you that it would be possible to slip under one of your Men-of-War on a dark night, and blow her to atoms. How would that be?” Paul replied. “Ah,” responded the General earnestly, “that is a different question. If you can prove that to me, I will call a commission to investigate this possibility.” Ample proof was given to the effiency of the rubber suit.
Arrangements were later made for an exhibition in the Bano del Poplo. While making preparations, Paul experienced the manner that European artisans have of doing business.
He needed to hire a carpenter to build several small boats to use in this exhibition. The landlord recommending a carpenter, Paul negioated a price of five lire each, and supplied the specks. The carpenter had the little boats ready on time, and during the exhibition, appointed himself as the major demo man, always being in the way and annoying Paul. At the close of the exhibition he presented a bill for seventy five lire, according to his contract it should have been thirty
five lire, Paul demanded an itemized bill from the carpenter.
This is a copy of the billing submitted by the carpenter, which should be of interest to any businessman:
To six boats, per agreement........................... 30 lire.
Wood for building same...................................11 “
Labor and making............................................14 “
Pieces broken in bending................................. 5 “
Carry boats to Bano......................................... 2 “
Time lost while at exhibition.............................10 “
Wine for poor boy who fell overboard.............. 1 “
Total .....75 lire.
Paul paid the carpenter thirty lire owed to him, and received a profane blessings of the irate contractor.
Boyton was just in time for the great Roman Carnival and had the pleasure, if such it may be called, of witnessing the spectacle of barbaric behavior. This was a cruel and dangerous sport, a horse race along the Corso, the principal thoroughfare in Rome, which is a narrow winding street. The race is between five or six thoroughbred
horses, almost wild and very vicious. They are turned loose in the street without bridles or any other harness, only a surcingle, from the sides of which hung like tassels, steel balls with sharp needle like points protruding from them, that serves to prick the animals to a frenzy of speed. The streets were lined with people and it took the guards all they have, to keep them back and out of danger. As the canon is fired, the terrified animals dash madly down the street with the wicked steel balls swinging in the air. People and horses are always killed at this barbaric Roman Carnival, the carnage and cruelty of horses has since been outlawed, in Italy and I believe all of Europe.
While in the ancient city Paul was determined to make a voyage down the Tiber. Going up the river as far as he possibly could get, to Orte, measuring the distance from Rome to Orte, about ninety miles by river. The news of him travelling up the river reached Orte before he did, and another reception awaited his arrival, he was royally
Torpedoing The Man of War
Paul filled Rubber Bags with dynamite to create these Torpedos.