Diana Nyad, forced to quit two earlier long-distance swims, grinned triumphantly today as she waded shore here, the first person to beat currents, sharks and jellyfish in a swim from the Bahamas to Florida.
Saluted by the whistles of welcoming boats, the 30-year-old New Yorker swam strongly as she approached a beach where hundreds waited.
She stumbled slightly as she rose from the calm ocean at 11:35 a.m., 27 1/2 hours after leaving North Bimini.
"Everybody said it couldn't be done," she said above a din of whoops and cheers.
"My body feels like the F-train in New York ran over me, but emotionally I'm exhilarated," she said as onlookers smothered her with kisses.
Although Nyad succeeded, another American marathon swimmer across the Atlantic failed in his bid for a record. John Erikson was pulled from the water 11 miles short of the French coast. The 24-year-old schoolteacher was on the final leg of his effort to become the first swimmer to make a non-stop, triple crossing of the English Channel.
As Nyad swam the last few yards, she was surrounded by a crush of bystanders, and her crew screamed at them to keep away until she cleared the water. They said the effort would have been nullified if anyone had touched her before she reached shore.
Her left eye was swollen shut from salt water, and a coating of latex -- applied to protect her from the stings of Portuguese men-of-war -- hung from her in shreds. Jellyfish stings ended her first Bahamas-to-Florida swim two weeks ago after 12 1/2 hours.
No sharks came close to her boat, her crew said. A harmless sand shark and a barracuda were spotted but swam away.
Nyad said she probably lost 10 or 12 of the 137 pounds she weighed when she stepped into the water a few minutes past 8 a.m. EDT Sunday.
The straight-line distance between North Bimini and the Florida coast is about 60 miles, but Nyad's trainers said currents meant she swam farther. She negotiated the powerful Gulf Stream, the nemesis for most Bahamas-Florida swimmers, without difficulty.
Nyad's swim established a record, said Jerry Highfield of the Inlet Rescue Service based in Jupiter, Fla.His nonprofit organization, he said, was chosen by Nyad to handle communications for the marathon effort.
He said precise measurements during the swim established that she had swum 89 miles. He said he was sure the swim would be submitted to the Guinness Book of World Records.
Nyad sat on the sand and talked with reporters after the swim, then had to be helped to her feet and aided in the short walk to an oceanfront motel.
There she waited in a chair, an ice pack on her forehead, until her crew van pulled up. She climbed in the back, lay on the floor, drank some orange juice and was taken to a houseboat at Jupiter Inlet.
Nyad said she hopes to raise $120,000 for another try in October at swimming the 103 miles from Cuba to Key West, Fla. She covered 70 miles and persisted for 41 hours in her first attempt at that swim in August 1978. She endured jellyfish stings, hallucinations, seasickness, fatigue, a blistered mouth and a swollen tongue, then was forced to quit after being swept off course and hit by high waves.
Another swimmer, Stella Taylor, tried twice to swim from the Bahamas to Florida. Last year, she was only 10 miles from her goal when she gave up after swimming 32 hours.