A former army ranger has dived into a new challenge - to become the first person to circumnavigate a country by fin-swimming.

The watersport is growing in popularity and involves surface swimming using fins on your feet along with a breathing mask and snorkel.

Donegal man Henry O'Donnell was keen to remain busy when the Covid-19 pandemic curtailed his work as a security consultant for airlines and oil companies.

The 56-year-old from Carrickfinn is a former army ranger and has undertaken numerous challenges following his recovery from a sporting accident in the 1990s, which left him paralysed for a period of time.

He led the first relay swim around Ireland in 2006 and has completed 'lowest to highest point' expeditions on four continents.

With time on his hands during the coronavirus restrictions, Henry decided to start training for what he describes as "one of the most inspiring, unique and challenging marine projects ever attempted in Irish coastal waters". 

He left Carrickfinn beach in west Donegal this afternoon to fin-swim the first leg of his clockwise expedition around the island of Ireland.

The weather will dictate the pace of the swim but Henry said it could take up to one year to complete.

During that time, he hopes to raise significant funds for two charities - the Irish Cancer Society and Water Safety Ireland.

He will also use the swim to promote the WSI's messages about water safety and drowning prevention. 

There will also be a keen interest in the expedition from scientists at NUI Galway who are involved in the PIER project - Public health Impact of Exposure to antibiotic Resistance in recreational waters.

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This is a four year research project, led by Professor Dearbháile Morris, to investigate if exposure to antibiotic-resistant bugs in recreational waters affects people's health and well-being.

Henry is one of a group of talented swimmers and other watersport enthusiasts involved in the research and will be regularly tested during the course of his epic round-Ireland swim.