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British man's attempt to swim Atlantic slowed by sharks, jellyfish

Ben Hooper, 38, looks out to sea before starting a swim across the Atlantic from Dakar, Senegal, Nov. 13, 2016. REUTERS/Emma Farge1 / 2
Ben Hooper, 38, breathes between strokes as he starts a swim across the Atlantic from Dakar, Senegal, Nov. 13, 2016. REUTERS/Emma Farge2 / 2

DAKAR, Senegal—A British man aiming to be the first person to swim across the Atlantic said Thursday he is grappling with sharks, jellyfish stings, choppy water—and a sea moth that tried to nest in his left ear.

Ex-policeman Ben Hooper, 38, says he embarked on the nearly 2,000-mile crossing from Senegal to Brazil to prove that nothing is impossible, inspired by explorers like Ranulph Fiennes, who crossed the Antarctic on foot.

But since setting out on Nov. 13 he has only swum 67 nautical miles, meaning that at the current rate he will not arrive until early 2018, many months behind schedule. A former crew member said a support vessel had only packed food for 140 days.

"Yes, this is far tougher than envisaged," said Hooper in a Facebook post. "Jellyfish sting me repeatedly every day and we have now seen sharks on two confirmed occasions," he said, adding that he remained committed to swimming every mile.

Hooper told Reuters in an interview shortly before his departure that he had repellent made from rotting shark cartilage which is supposed to keep them at bay.

He is set to swim through shark breeding grounds near Brazil, where mothers may lash out to protect their young.

Ten days ago, he had to stop swimming and ask the medic to remove a sea moth nesting in his left ear. He has also been flipped over many times by large waves and encountered sprawling islands of floating trash.

Hooper's post also confirmed that a second support vessel crammed with pasta and rice had returned to Dakar, forcing the team to rely on military ration packs.

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