Yes, I went swimming in the Arctic Ocean! I said I wouldn’t, but gave in to the pressure of not wanting to miss those once-in-a-lifetime-opportunities.
We lined up, single file, to anticipate the fate of the fearful bone-chilling water. We had just cruised past (and even broke right through) varying forms of ice: glaciers and sea ice like pack ice, ice floes, pancake ice. Our dive site was all liquid, no solid water, so this should be warmer, right? I knew better since earlier that day I had the privilege to accompany National Geographic Explorer Naturalist Dennis Cornejo on a special zodiac boat ride. We collected data by operating the ROV (remote operated vehicle) – National Geographic’s underwater camera which is driven with a control that looks like a video game. We also ran a plankton tow (towed a special net to collect plankton samples). The data relevant to this swim was the water temperature reading… 0 degrees!
Lindlbad Expeditions can make anything fun. My runner friends will understand this – lining up felt like the start of a marathon! You know what’s ahead is going to hurt, but the psych-up music makes you feel powerful, fearless, ready to conquer the world! The pump up music had Fergie belt out, “Let’s Get it Started in Here.” One of my awesome Grosvenor Teacher Fellows, Merinda, and I held hands, counted to 3 and jumped in.
Instant fear and panic filled my veins from the utter shock of the ice-cold sea! The few seconds it took me to swim to my naturalist friends who would pull me out of the water felt like minutes. Luckily hotel manager, Henrik, greeted us with warming beverages.
I still don’t know why I went back for round 2 just minutes later. Desire for an adrenaline rush? Something to wake me up from the lack of sleep? To earn another warming beverage? Later meeting 20 people crammed into a little sauna? This time I jumped a little braver.
As I wrote the Daily Expedition Report I co-authored (to post later), we quickly learned we were not so adapted as the walruses for these conditions. After all, they overheat in this water with their 5 inches of blubber! Two jumps in the water was all this human could handle.
Please “bear” with me (pun intended) as I collect and process my polar bear pictures to share soon!