A BRAVE long distance swimmer has revealed how a pair of great white sharks took an unhealthy interest in his attempts to become the oldest person to cross the Cook Strait.
Tom Clarke-Nolan, 60, is now back in Willow Crescent, Clayton-le-Woods, after his charity swim 12,000 miles away was cut short when hypothermia set in.
He missed out on becoming the most senior swimmer to conquer the stretch of water separating New Zealand's north and south islands, being forced to return to a support boat after 10 miles.
But Tom, who finished his trip with a bungee jump near Christchurch, has vowed to return in two years and try again.
A final figure has yet to be calculated, but Tom still raised thousands of pounds for the Robyn Brooks Appeal, helping a seven-year-old Rochdale girl fight a rare cancer.
Tom, a former special services operative now working as a sales executive, was on course for a 10 hour finish in the 15 mile trip when hypothermia saw his body start to shut down.
The intrepid swimmer, a veteran of many major swims, including around Manhattan Island and Loch Ness and English Channel relays, trained at Whittle-le-Woods' Next Generation Gym.
Tom, who was swimming in just trunks, goggles and a swim cap, added: "When I came across Robyn I thought I would try and help. She's been fighting for her life since she was three.
"It will take me more than a year to save enough to get out again. But I'll get there. I said before I set off there were only two ways I was going to come out, either inside a shark or unconscious with hypothermia. It was disappointing to be beaten, but when hypothermia kicks in it affects the mind as well as the body.
"Yet I've since learned through the charts that I'd done more than 10 miles.
"And it was only a few days later that one of the pilot crew told me I was swimming in white shark country and that a couple had been spotted close by.
"They were watching very closely and if they came in any nearer they would have had to try to ram them to frighten them off. But we're talking about a ton and a half of fish.
"I was oblivious of this though."
Brian Brooks, Robyn's uncle, said: "Tom showed real dedication and determination and I can only thank him for what he's done.
"The awareness he has raised half way around the world is worth a million pounds in itself."
To find out more about Robyn's appeal log on to www.robynbrooks.co.uk