Taking The Polar Plunge In Antarctica
The whole trip had been leading up to this moment. There I was, on the final day of my Antarctic Expedition, facing by far the worst weather we had seen on the entire voyage.
Stripped down to nothing but shorts.
I couldn’t believe it, but I was ready to take the Polar Plunge. This wasn’t just any Polar Plunge where there was a nearby sauna and hot tub, but the real deal. I was ashore on Deception Island and a 5-10 minute long Zodiac ride back to warmth on the main ship. It was time to put my money where my mouth was.
The Polar Plunge: The Real Deal vs. The Plunge Pool
There were plenty of opportunities for me to back out or do the easy version of the Polar Plunge. Our ship, the Akademik Ioffe, was equipped with a Plunge Pool that could be flooded with ocean water and was conveniently sauna-adjacent. It was a great way to feel the chill of below-freezing water engulfing you while having a quick heat source nearby.
But nooooooooooo, I decided to be brave and do the full shore dive. I needed the bragging rights and, of course, the certificate that comes along with the shore dive, because nothing is official without a certificate!
A Beautiful Day For A Swim
Our expedition had been unbelievably lucky with the weather for our whole voyage (with a few small exceptions), enjoying beautiful, sunny days that made the whole continent shine.
Today was not one of those days.
The morning wake-up call pleasantly informed me that winds were high that day, with outside temperatures in the low 20s and water temperature of 29(!) degrees Fahrenheit. Yup, the water I would soon be engulfed in was BELOW FREEZING.
Getting My Game Face On
I took shelter behind an abandoned structure to shield myself from the harsh winds that day and prepared to face the consequences of my decision to take the Polar Plunge. Off went my many layers as I felt the freezing wind sting my bare skin. I could feel my skin tighten, and looking down I saw the biggest goosebumps of my life as if my skin was attempting to crawl back inside my body to find warmth.
Was I really going through with this?
There I was, standing in nothing but my swim trunks. I may as well get even colder at this point, what difference would it make now? I grabbed my trusty GoPro to document the experience, turned it on…
…and there was the blinking battery symbol. Serves me right for my lack of preparedness. I proceeded to change the battery while still freezing my ass off in nothing but my shorts in Antarctica.
Here Goes Nothing
The hour had arrived. I was stripped down, GoPro battery was changed, and all eyes were on me. I took a deep breath, embraced the cold and ran in at full speed for my Polar Plunge!
My whole system was shocked the instant I made contact with the water. I dove in head first and felt the overwhelming sense of urgency tugging at my body to get out. I happy obliged my instincts and exited the frigid water immediately.
It took me a good 15 minutes to recover, which was about the time I had to wait for a Zodiac to take me to the main ship to warm up. My ears and feet went fully numb to the point where it felt as if I was wearing earmuffs. My feet felt like lead weights. I couldn’t function mentally as I tried putting on my boots before my pants in a desperate attempt to relieve the ice cold feeling.
Looking back at where I emerged from the frigid waters, I spotted a group of penguins landing on the beach right where I just came from! They must have heard the commotion and felt the need to investigate. In a moment of bravado, I felt as if my quick 30 second dip made me an honorary penguin as well.
Arriving back at the ship, I felt accomplished and pleasantly refreshed. I sipped on my hot chocolate and sauntered over to the sauna, although by that time I was pretty much back to my normal operating temperature. I did it. A huge bucket list item was checked off once again. The Polar Plunge isn’t necessarily for everyone, but I loved the rush of it and hope I have the opportunity to do it again.