The Antarctic Plunge

Trip Start Sep 06, 2010
Trip End Sep 27, 2011

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Flag of United States  , South Shetland Islands
Saturday, December 4, 2010

--- Sofia's Story: ---

I wake up a bit sad, excited and nervous.
A bit sad because it is our last real day in Antarctica (non drake crossing day).
Excited because we are in Antarctica and every morning I have been excited in anticipation of finding out how Antarctica will blow me away this time.
Nervous because apparently it is swimming day and I have no idea what is going to happen or even how that’s possible.

I go to get changed and hesitate. I’m freezing. And we are still inside the ship, inside the cabin and I’m wearing clothes. I deliberate for a moment about how ridiculous it would be to put on a bikini under my thermals instead of my undies. I decide that even though I feel utterly ridiculous, if I do it really quickly, Marco won’t notice and no-one else needs to know.

Marco catches me. "Whaaaaat are you doing?"
“Nothing”, I lie unconvincingly and then rush to hide the evidence that I have entertained the thought of swimming in the Antarctic even though I have been complaining how I’ve been freezing cold every day through my fifty layers. (Thermals, woollen top, woollen jumper, fleece, windproof jacket and ski jacket)
Marco laughs at me. A lot. He is finding this all very entertaining.

Up at breakfast, The Antarctic Plunge is all the goss, and I find I am not the only one contemplating craziness. I don’t think I’m going to doing it, but… I do admit to others that I have donned bathing-ware, “Just in case.” It’s a step closer.

We board the zodiacs and now I’m sure there is no way I’m going to do this. It is particularly cold today, our spell of nice (Antarctic style) weather having disappeared overnight. The sun is hiding, the sky is grey, it’s sleet-snowing. The wind from the zodiacs is whipping through my layers. When we land, we keep our lifejackets on because it provides that extra bit of protection from the wind and cold.

Earlier this morning we had gone through Neptune’s Bellows into Deception Point. It is the remains of a massive volcano that has exploded, collapsed into a massive crater and filled with sea water. Thanks to a narrow pass, Neptune’s Bellows, which is just wide enough to fit a ship; this is the only place in world that where you can enter a volcano crater by ship!

At the beach, we can see the sand steaming gently from the heat of the magma below. There’s hope! The water must be warm!! Very excited I rush over to the steaming sand and remove my two layers of gloves to feel the cool water.
Right. I’m going to swim, I declare to Marco, fuelled by the prospect of completing another challenge.
This cracks Marco up into another fit of giggles. He thinks I’m hilarious now, but I’m going to do it and he will see! My hand has started to hurt from the cold of the air on my now wet hand.

A break! We transfer to another beach with warmer waters. Fully enthusiastic now, I strip out of my layers down to the bikini. I check to see if Marco is ready to film me, but he’s too shocked by the other bathers. “MAARRRCOOO I’M GOING!!!!!!” I yell. He spins around and starts filming while I run to the water and plunge myself into the Antarctic waters.

I’m thoroughly invigorated!
At this point I would like to rightfully claim challenge #42 - taking a dip at the southern most point of South America. I have done this SO well that I have gone SO far south, that I've hit northern Antarctica! I even have a certificate of completion.

--- Marcos's story ---

For three days there were rumours of the possibility of taking “the plunge”. I thought they were joking and that, really, in the end, nobody ever does it. It would be too stupid.

Talking to our fellow travellers, it sounded like quite a few of them were quite pumped. Still thought they were either joking or unable to understand that they will never find the courage to do it once they are facing the freezing water.

The night before the plunge, they tell us that tomorrow, whoever wants to, can do it.
After laughing myself silly at Sofia for wearing her bikini under her thermals, we go for breakfast, where everyone is talking about the plunge. As if this was not enough, one overenthusiastic girl is wearing a light summer dress and thongs. Ding Dong: everyone is gone crazy. It’s one degree outside, and the weather has turned for the worse. It’s the perfect winter day to do nothing by the fireplace. Crazy.

After an improbable walk on the side of the volcano where the warmest water hole (about 1cm deep) is about 15 degrees C, we move to the other beach. I have never felt so cold in this whole Antarctic expedition before.

At our arrival at the beach, the scenery is impressive: 10 “beached” humans in swimmers lying on the beach, covered by a layer of steam coming from the hot sand.
HOT: not like 20-30-40 degrees. 70 degrees C!!! But there is no hot “pool”, really: you need to dig your own pool, which will be about 2cm deep.
I can’t even put my whole hand in it because it’s too hot. Half of these beached humans look completely burnt red on the upper side (the other half of them hasn’t turned over yet).
The craziness continues.
Ready to tell Sofie “I had told you you would not do it”, I turn around to find she is already taking her clothes off.
What’s wrong with them all???

I look at the bright side: now I can be sure I am the most intelligent between us two…
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Mum on

I am very proud of you Sof. By taking the plunge you have grabbed life by the proverbials- letting your ya-yas out in a controlled environment- perfect!

Krystal on

I can't believe Marco doubted Fietje's resolve when it comes to things like this plunge!! You're just lucky she didn't arrange to have you thrown in too (like I would have done if my husband chose to miss such an experience!). Glad you have both found Antarctica utterly amazing. All your stories and pics confirm it's worth going through hell (the Drake Passage) to see it!

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