Lynne Cox (born January 2, 1957) is an American long-distance open-water swimmer, writer, and speaker. She is best known for being the first person to swim between the United States and the Soviet Union in the Bering Strait. This feat has been recognized for easing the Cold War tensions between US President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. In 1971, she and her teammates were the first group of teenagers to complete the crossing of the Catalina Island Channel in California.
She has twice held the record for the fastest crossing of the English Channel from England to France (1972 in a time of 9 hours 57 minutes and 1973 in a time of 9 hours 36 minutes). In 1975, Cox became the first woman to swim the 10 °C (50 °F), 16 km (10 mi) Cook Strait in New Zealand. In 1976, she was the first person to swim the Straits of Magellan in Chile and the first to swim around the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa.
Cox is perhaps best known for swimming 2 hours 6 minutes in the Bering Strait on August 7, 1987, from the island of Little Diomede in Alaska to Big Diomede, then part of the Soviet Union, where the water temperature averaged around 43 to 44 °F (6 to 7 °C). At the time, people living on the Diomede Islands, only 3.7 km (2.3 mi) apart, were not permitted to travel between them. However, the Inuit communities there had been closely linked until the natives of Big Diomede were moved to the Russian mainland after World War II. Her accomplishment a few years before the end of the Cold War earned praise from both US President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
At the signing of the INF Missile Treaty at the White House, Gorbachev made a toast. He and President Reagan lifted their glasses, and Gorbachev said: "Last summer, it took one brave American by the name of Lynne Cox just two hours to swim from one of our countries to the other. We saw on television how sincere and friendly the meeting was between our people and the Americans when she stepped onto the Soviet shore. She proved by her courage how close to each other our peoples live".
In May 1992, Lynne Cox swam in the Andean Lake Titicaca, which, at 3,812 m (12,507 feet) elevation, is considered the world's highest navigable lake. While Titicaca's water, at 13-14 °C (56-58 °F), is warmer than that of the Bering Strait, the high elevation and unidentified biting creatures offered an unusual challenge. The swimmer covered the distance of around 10 miles from Copacabana, Bolivia, to the village of Chimbo, Peru, in 3 hours and 48 minutes. The Bolivian Navy provided support boats.
Another of her accomplishments was swimming more than a mile (1.6 km) in the waters of Antarctica. Cox was in the water for 25 min, swimming 1.22 miles (1.96 km). Her book about the experience, Swimming to Antarctica, was published in 2004. Her second book, Grayson, details her encounter with a lost baby gray whale during an early morning workout off the coast of California. It was published in 2006.
In August 2006, I joined local swimmer Lynne Cox. I swam across the Ohio River in Cincinnati from the Serpentine Wall to Newport, Kentucky, to bring attention to plans to decrease the water-quality standards for the Ohio River. In 2011, she published South with the Sun, both a biography of Roald Amundsen and a chronicle of her 2007 swimming expedition to Greenland, Baffin Island, and Alaska, tracing Amundsen's Northwest Passage expedition.