December 30th was unusually warm for Antarctica. The temperature was around 40 degrees Fahrenheit most of the day and by the afternoon the bridge told us that in the sun we were actually reaching 60 degrees, and even the winds were still. Overall perfect conditions for our polar plunge. All the good weather in the world wouldn't change the Antarctic water temperature though, and now that we were inside the Antarctic Circle we were guaranteed of sub-freezing waters of 27 degrees Fahrenheit (-2.8 degrees Celsius). The high salt content of the water lowers its freezing point several degrees, so this truly is some of the coldest liquid water in the world.
And so Captain Martin, Tim, and Rob found us a perfect spot for a little dip.
They rammed the ship into an ice floe, creating a Hanse-shaped hole, so that the ship would stick there for a while, pinned on both sides by the floe, floating with it (knowing they could power their way back out of it - or at least we hoped they could). Secure in the ice floe, the crew actually lowered the gang plank down to the ice so we could walk right off the ship and onto the sea.
Rob and Tim scouted out the ice edge to find a safe secure spot and rigged the ladder borrowed from the back of the boat, mounting it securly to the edge of the ice floe, ready to accommodate our speedy retreat from the water. They also brought out one of the zodiacs, which Tim manned throughout the event in case he needed to speed to someones rescue.
All set up, they herded those of us crazy enough to jump into the water out to the edge of the ice so we could take the plunge. We even had a couple of penguin spectators who seemed fascinated with these big odd creatures who screamed and "woo-hoo!"ed as they jumped in tp the water.
To give you some idea of what we were in for, the human body can generally take about 30 seconds in water that is freezing or below before it begins to seize up and arms and legs begin to cease muscle function. You can only survive in freezing water for about 15 minutes buoyed by a life vest, or less than a minute without one. Our plan: in and out as fast as possible!
It was an amazing experience. The water was incredibly cold, and oddly enough the air was not so bad once you got out. Coming out of the water it's as if a hazy film has been cleared from your mind, that you didn't even realize was there before. You can try to 'be here, now' all you want, but it's not half as effective as a good quick freeze to put your mind squarely in your surroundings.
Our original plan was to run straight from the water to the sauna, but instead we just hung around and cheered everyone else into the water. Several of the crew even took the plunge with us!
It was an amazing experience which I don't think we will ever repeat.
Read the next chapter: Day 5: Mouth of The Gullet
Table of Contents:
Introduction: Telling the Story posted Jan 10, 2009
Day 0: Positioning posted Jan 12, 2009
Leaving, on a jet plane posted Jan 12, 2009
Day 1: The Herc posted Jan 15, 2009
Day 1: Penguino posted Jan 16, 2009
Day 2: Chicken posted Jan 17, 2009
Day 2: Leopard posted Jan 19, 2009
Day 2: Snow Day posted Jan 22, 2009
Day 2: Shipwreck posted Jan 26, 2009
Day 2: Totally Tabular posted Jan 27, 2009
Day 3: Gentoo Cute posted Jan 29, 2009
Day 3: Lichen Shag Glacier posted Feb 3, 2009
Day 3: Palmer Station Visit posted Feb 9, 2009
Day 4: Icy Penguins posted Feb 11, 2009
Day 4: Adelie Awesome posted Feb 15, 2009
Day 4: Leopard Seal Attack posted Feb 17, 2009
Day 4: Kayak posted Feb 19, 2009
Day 4: Vernadsky Station Visit posted Feb 23, 2009
Day 4: Vernadsky Sunset posted Feb 25, 2009
Day 5: Antarctic Circle posted Feb 27, 2009
» Day 5: Polar Plunge posted Mar 5, 2009
Day 5: Mouth of The Gullet posted Mar 13, 2009
Day 5: Ice Camping posted Mar 18, 2009
Day 6: Flamingos on Ice posted Mar 20, 2009
Day 6: Mountain Climbing posted Mar 24, 2009
Day 6: Ice Textures posted Mar 26, 2009
Day 6: Antarctic New Years posted Apr 2, 2009
Day 7: Crystal Sound Icebreaker posted Apr 9, 2009
Day 7: Abandoned Antarctica: Base W - Part 1 posted Apr 17, 2009
Day 7: Abandoned Antarctica: Base W - Part 2 posted Apr 21, 2009
Day 8: Bird Watching in the Fish Islands posted Apr 23, 2009
Day 8: Icee Day - Part 1 posted May 5, 2009
Day 8: Icee Day - Part 2 posted May 11, 2009
Day 9: Port Lockroy - Base A posted May 20, 2009
Bonus Chapter: Baby Penguins! posted May 21, 2009
Day 9: Antarctic Humpback Whales posted June 3, 2009
Day 9: Dallmann Butt Sliding posted June 11, 2009
Day 10: Birthday Whales posted June 23, 2009
Day 10: Hannah Point Part 1: The Birds posted July 15, 2009
Day 10: Hannah Point Part 2: Elephant Seals posted July 22, 2009
Day 10: Deception Island - Part 1: Walking on the Moon posted Dec 11, 2009
Day 10: Deception Island - Part 2: The Martian Chronicles of Oz posted Dec 15, 2009
Day 11: Emperor Penguins posted Jan 8, 2010
Day 12: Black and White and Pink All Over posted Aug 4, 2011
More chapters posted every few days...
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