“Please make your way to the Mud Room, the Polar Plunge will begin in 15-minutes,” said the voice on the PA system as I blinked my eyes open from a much needed nap. Quite the wakeup call. I rolled out of bed and into my bathing suit, draped my robe around me, and with sleepy eyes I headed to the locker room where more than 100 anxious people awaited their freezing fate. People shared their nervousness and excitement with each other, some groups gathered for pep talks, others remained silent and focused. We were called up in small groups to walk out onto the gangway where we were strapped into a harness and latched by a rope so the crew could yank us back in, if needed.
I contemplated whether I’d need someone to push me, but when the moment came I was eager to take the plunge. The scene in front of me as I looked out onto the Southern Ocean was pure and peaceful, almost beautiful enough to distract me from what I was about to do. That was until an ice block floated by in my path, providing a reminder as to how cold the swim would be.
And then I jumped. The initial impact wasn’t as shocking as the slow, tingling sensation that hit my limbs once I regained consciousness of them. Uncertain how long I would have control of my arms and legs, I swam quickly back toward the ship and climbed up the ladder, struggling to pull my numb body up. The moment I exited I realized my regret. I wish I had floated in the water longer, stopped to look around and take it all in, but the fight or flight instinct kicked in and my body was telling me to hurry back to warmth.
After our jump, we walked back through the locker room, receiving cheers and questions about our current state of being. Truthfully, I felt incredible, and I told each person to take advantage of the moment. The entire experience was invigorating and cleansing, and I immediately thought I’d do it again if I had the chance, which we did ask about but the attempt was unsuccessful. Instead, we ran to the heated pool on the back deck, which was filled with plungers celebrating and sharing their survival stories. There was a great sense of camaraderie amongst those who braved the plunge and we all reveled in the moment together.
For us, the Polar Plunge was somewhat of a symbolic pledge. As participants in the International Antarctic Expedition, we pledged to take action in becoming change agents for our communities, engage in meaningful dialog, inspire action amongst individuals, and lead by example for the next generation to come, because they will play a critical role in the preservation of our planet and the species who live here.