Nicola, Thursday 8 July 2010
Wind speed: 10 knots
Temp with wind chill: -45°C
I’m always surprised at the similarities between our Antarctic lives and the experiences of the men on the expeditions 100 years ago. But the day after Midwinter with the temperature at -25°C we took part in a Scott Base tradition for which there seems to be no comparison – the polar plunge.
This is when we cut a hole in the sea ice, put on safety harnesses and take it in turns to jump into the icy 1.7°C waters of the Ross Sea. As I plunged through the floating slush of ice and saw the dark blue-green waters around me, the cold instantly numbed my skin and fingers, and I forgot how to breathe. For a split second there was a wonderfully thrilling feeling of being in the unknown … and so I did it again!
Followed up with saunas and hot showers we shared video clips of our plunges – some did it wearing just shoes, some in fancy dress or bikinis; some made a big splash and others dipped a toe in the water then elegantly slid in without getting their hair wet!
Later I remembered that the only time the members of the expeditions had dipped into the water was by accident, putting a leg through the tide-crack, or falling through thin broken sea ice, some never to be seen again.
Why do we do it? Maybe it’s because we all appreciate experiencing the extremes of the Antarctic environment - provided there’s a warm sauna to run to afterwards!