Photo by George Le Masurier
Taking the Polar Bear plunge at Goose Spit on Boxing Day
Brave souls dove into cold waters on the leeward side of Goose Spit Wednesday (Boxing Day) for the 42nd annual Polar Bear Swim. Several hundred joined in the fun. Fun? Apparently, according to the Comox Recreation Centre organizers. Here’s a gallery of photos to relive the event from the warmth of your living room.
POLAR BEARS HAVE TO SWIM LONGER, AND MORE OFTEN
Melting ice in the Beaufort Sea is forcing polar bears to swim long distances, without food or rest for days at a time, with increasing frequency, according to a five-year study that sheds light onto yet another consequence of climate change in the North.
A group of researchers at the University of Alberta monitored polar bears in the Beaufort Sea, north of Alaska and the Yukon, and Hudson Bay from 2007 to 2012.
They found that as sea ice melted, female adult bears and younger bears of both genders were paddling distances greater than 30 miles more often in order to find pieces of ice large enough for them to rest on.
“If you went back in time, even to the 1980s, bears in the Beaufort Sea probably never saw 50 kilometers [30 miles] of open water, and that’s the low end of the analysis,” said researcher Andrew Derocher, a professor of biological sciences at the University of Alberta.
HERE’S THE REALLY SCARY PLACES TO SWIM IN THE WORLD
Victoria Falls, Zambia — A natural swimming hole at the top of the falls, a 100-foot drop.
Hanakapiai Beach, Hawaii — High surfs, strong rip currents and high tides have claimed many lives here
Volusia County, Florida — New Smyrna Beach is known as the Shark Bite Capital of the World. Nuff said.
River Nile, Egypt — If water falls, rip currents and sharks aren’t scary enough for you, take a dip in the muddy waters of the Nile, where a half-million crocodiles lurk among the piranha-like Tiger Fish.
IF YOU DIDN’T THINK GOOSE SPIT WAS COLD, TRY THIS!
Plunge into water at near-freezing temperatures, and your body goes into extreme distress. Your skin screams signals of pain. You can’t breathe, because your chest is cramping up. Talking is nearly impossible. Your heart is pounding. Fear mounts — as it should. Without any protection, you may lose consciousness in under 15 minutes. You’ll be dead within an hour.
Or … you can start racing! That’s the idea behind the Open Scandinavian Championship in Winter Swimming, which takes place every year in a 25-meter pool cut out of a frozen lake in a small Swedish town only about 100 miles from the Arctic Circle. Nearly 400 swimmers traveled there in February for the privilege and thrill of competing in this unique sport with as many health benefits as risks, it seems.
It’s the health benefits of the cold — both physical and emotional — that inspired this winter swimming race in the first place.