Mulligan leads the way "down towards the fortyfoot hole," an ocean swimming spot about one hundred yards from the tower. Stephen follows behind him with Haines, his walking stick scraping along the path.
A rocky ledge juts into the sea near the Sandycove tower, sheltering an inlet good for swimming. The water there, though deep, is less than forty feet, so the source of the name is anyone's guess. In Joyce’s time only men swam in its cold waters, and bathing suits were optional. Flann O’Brien’s At Swim-Two-Birds features the same swimming hole.
Joyce twice refers to the waters in the hole as "the
creek," apparently because the ceaseless movement
of ocean water into and out of the inlet gave him the
impression of a river of water.