March 6th – Pleneau Bay 65°06.5’S, 064°01.8’W
How often can you say – I “swam” in Antarctica?
It was suddenly upon us, the schedule for the day had changed and it was now time to make that decision – should I do the polar plunge or not? Who in their right mind would voluntarily hurl themselves into freezing cold temperatures by choice?? Me, as it turns out and countless others as well. Were we mad? Yes, I think so!
I really didn’t want to do it but the competitive streak in me kept niggling at me to do it, as well as a little bit of FOMO. Whilst humming and hawing about whether to do it or not I bumped into Jen Gardy, another member of the expedition. She was all set to go with her swimming costume on and towelling robe wrapped around her. Here is the conversation that took place:
Me: “Jen, I don’t think I am going to do it.”
Jen: “Annie, here is what I think. You won’t regret it if you do it, but you WILL regret it if you don’t.”
That was all that I needed. Jen was always full of great advice and I respected her wisdom and judgement a lot. So off I went to get my gear on.
The build-up to the actual “plunge” was a bit mad. Lots of people shrieking from cold and exhilaration as they emerged from the icy waters. I had mixed feelings whilst waiting for my turn –
- fear of what was about to happen – would I be ok? What if just at that moment a killer whale happened to swim by and fancy me as a bit of dinner?
- confusion as to why I was about to do it?
- and of course, tonnes of adrenaline!
Many people were discussing how to enter the water – jump, dive bomb, fall, star jump, front somersault, back somersault, dive. I decided upon a dive. The plan was to dive in and take 3 freestyle strokes before taking my first breath…….you know, just like we teach the students to do at the start of a race! Well, that didn’t quite happen.
I watched Anjuli go before me and her face confirmed all my fears – the actual act was going to be horrendous. Anjuli and Pratyusha chose to jump, Brian (the lion) and Woodchuck Ben – backward somersaults (impressive) and Christina AKA GI Jane – front somersault and I stuck to my decision to dive.
It was my turn. I knew that if I didn’t do it straight away after the first count of 3 then I would struggle to do it. So I clapped my hands to get me motivated, said “here I go guys” counted to 3 and dived in. The water immediately felt like it was so cold that it was actually burning my skin. The initial dive seemed ok but immediately after surfacing it took my breath away and all I could think of was getting out of that water as fast as I could. I tried to concentrate on having at least a decent arm stroke on the way back – I will leave you to be the judge of that. I got out the water and climbed those steps probably faster than I have moved in a long while. As I got to the top of the steps, a very kind member of the ship staff wrapped a towel around me, it was the best feeling in the world, the warmth that the towel provided was incredible after having exposed my body to the harsh elements of the Southern ocean at -2 degrees C. I waited for Divvya to take the plunge, she was more nervous than I was, and then made sure she had a towel around her too. Immediately afterwards we made our way back upstairs waving arms in the air, high fiving others and shouting YEAAAAHHHHHH to all the people waiting to go. I was overcome with an enormous sense of achievement and relief that I had not been swallowed by a killer whale after all. As a reward, we were given a post-plunge whisky to warm our cockles.
So was I happy I had taken the Polar plunge and dived into icy waters off the coast of Antarctica?? ABSOLUTELY. It pushed me to the edge and challenged me and I am proud that I was a risk taker. I can definitely say that it would have been an opportunity missed! ENJOY watching me suffer below!!!