On March 1, 1914, 34 year-old Arthur R. "Tums" Cavill, one-time world champion for distance swimming and inventor of the Australian Crawl swimming stroke, tried the same two-and-one-half mile course, but was pulled from the water unconscious just 500 feet from the Seattle shore. He died 40 minutes later, apparently of exposure, saying only, "It was too cold. It was too cold." In 1907, Cavill had been the first to swim the Golden Gate in San Francisco. He worked as a swimming instructor in Portland, Oregon, and attempted the Elliott Bay swim after being challenged by a swimmer from Tacoma.
Hanson immigrated to Canada in 1912 from Schleswig-Holstein in Germany and he swam competitively in Victoria, British Columbia. While serving in the German army, he earned three medals for swimming.