On most trips to the Polar Regions we offer guests the opportunity to do the polar plunge, this is their chance to leap into freezing cold water so they can say they have plunged in the Antarctic or Arctic. I have participated in this silliness many times, including at the North Pole (90 degrees North) where the sea was freezing around us and the sea temperature was less than -1degree Celsius (sea water freezes at -1.9C). I remember with this plunge that I did a pin dive and ended up going vey deep. The water is so cold it absolutely takes your breath away, but when you are under water you cannot grasp. I remember opening my eyes and the water was completely black, because we were surrounded by ice and no light came through the water column. I thought to myself, if I didn’t know which way was up I would be very disorientated. Anyway, I shot to the surface and took a massive gasp of air and pulled myself out of the water pretty smartly.
So why, you may ask do I do the plunge once a season. It is a question that is very difficult to answer. Sometimes, it is because I promise to join someone in the frivolity or it is just a case of “Because I can”. But, actually, when I think about it, it is probably the craziest and perhaps dumbest thing to do. The feeling when you get out, though is one of exhilaration, which is probably due to the fact that you no longer feel any of your extremities. I suppose it is a bit like hitting your head against a brick wall it feels good when it stops. The strange thing is that when you get out it feels really warm, even if the temperature is below zero. Sometimes it does take a bit before one starts warming up and your hands and feet ache as the blood slowly returns.
An interesting fact about people who swim longer distances in such cold temperatures is that the body temperature continues to drop, even after they are out of the cold water and under a hot shower, so if you leave the water with a body temperature of 35C (already 2 degrees below normal), your temperature will continue to cool and you can become seriously hypothermic. I am never in the water for long enough for this to happen.
This year I jumped at 81 degrees North (1000km form the North Pole) in 0C water and in the Antarctic at 65 degrees South in -1C water where the air temperature was -4C. It is a load of fun and there is lots of jollity and laughter at people’s facial expressions and comments as they surface from the water. It always amazes me how many people come out of the water saying, “Wow, it’s cold!” Well, this is the Antarctic, the water is below freezing, what did you expect .
In the end, everyone enjoys themselves and for those brave souls who do the plunge, you can go back home and have the bragging rights to say that you swam in the Antarctic.
Of course, what I do Duncan also does, so here are the photos of us plunging in the Antarctic. I decided to imitate a penguin and where a penguin suit (Why make a fool of yourself jumping into freezing water, when you can make a complete idiot of yourself and jump in wearing a penguin suit?)
My advice: If you are ever travelling in the Polar Regions and you have the opportunity to do the polar plunge, DO IT! Remember, you regret more the things you didn’t do, than the things you did do.
Love from the freezer
Clouds and Duncan