Tuesday, July 22, 2014

swimming in the arctic ocean: Cambridge Bay's Polar Bear Dip 2014

Yesterday, Cambridge Bay held its annual Polar Bear Dip. This is a fundraiser to raise money to build a new multiplex recreation building, and it involves the bravest residents of the Nunavut community running into the freezing ocean, while the more sensible residents stay dry on shore barbecuing burgers.

I did it last year, and it was cold.  This year, it was still cold.

An ambulance with paramedics, waiting just in case...kind of scary

Last year, we had done it on one of the hottest days in August. And it was still really cold. This year, the weather was 7°C, and the Arctic ocean was 4°C. The ice had just melted last week. It was going to be interesting.

getting ready to go in the water

Polar Bear Dip 2014 participants, gathering their courage

Ready...get set...go!

and here's the video...

Right here, I am saying, "Why did we do this?"

The water was really cold, of course. It was fine when I was up to my ankles...probably because I was cheating, just a little, with my kayaking boots.  But once my legs and arms and torso went in, everything went tingly and intensely painful like a bunch of tiny needles pressing into my skin. I could tell you that my initial reaction was NOT "How lovely...let's stay in the water."  I wanted to get out. Immediately.

Earlier this month, my friends saved a young boy who was drowning in the water.  Having now gone for my first swim this year without a wetsuit, I have all more awe and appreciation for what they did.  Willing yourself to remain in that freezing cold water is almost impossible; I don't know how they managed to not only stay in that water, but rescue a drowning boy while the currents pushed them away and their clothes and boots weighed them down.

Luckily this time, the paramedics weren't needed at all and everyone came out of the water, screaming but laughing, a little proud of themselves for doing something a little crazy but fun.

Read the Nunatsiaq News' account of the story here