The Whale is the longest of all long distance swims, consisting of a continuous swim all the way around Lake McWain. Its length is approximately five miles and it takes two to four hours to complete. Only Senior Campers and sometimes CITs swim Whales. The first Whales were swum by Jean Hard, William Rounds, and Pat Brewster.
Swimming a Whale
A camper must be well prepared to swim his Whale. A Seal swum the previous year is a usual prerequisite for swimming a Whale. Whales are almost always swum near the end of the summer to give maximum time for training. Most will do "Whale Training" of double periods (2 hours) of swimming practice every day.
Whales usually commence before the morning bell. The person swimming his Whale never knows exactly what day his rowers will wake him to do it. It is traditional for the swimmer to coat himself in Crisco for purposes of warmth and hydrodynamics.
When a Whale is close to being finished, the bell will ring and the whole camp will go down to the water to cheer the swimmer on. After the swimmer gets out of the water the camp forms a human tunnel on the disco deck for the new Whale to walk through on his way to the Moose Manor. There he will get his temperature and vision checked to test for mild hypothermia that sometimes occurs. At the next meal the camp recognizes the new Whale with two standing Birch Rock Cheers and the Whale Cake. At this point the new Whale is inducted into the Whale Club. At the end of the summer the all Whales receive a Whale badge. Their names will also be put up on the plaques under the Whales section along with their times.
There have been a few whales through the years that deserve special mention.
- Jean Hard swam one of the first Whale's ever and the only woman to ever swim her Whale
- Dave Jenkins broke the camper Whale record about an hour and a half after Kip McMannus broke it in 1985. When Kip came in Dave was in the water on the other side of the Lake.
- After a summer of training with Dave Jenkins, Jamie Grantham broke Dave's camper record and held the record until Andrew B. a decade plus later.
- Will Weeks swam possibly the hardest Whale ever. The wind was against him almost the entire way and he swam through white caps. He did manage to finish with the longest Whale time ever, more than four hours. On the Whale plaques for that year there are waves carved next to his name to make note of his harsh swimming conditions.
- In 2005 Andrew Bowden swam the fastest Whale ever at the time, taking him only two hours and one minute
- The fastest Whale ever was swum in 2011 by Nick Cogswell with a time of 1:59