I can barely breathe due to nerves … or is it pleasure? Out throughout the bay, mountains thick with snow vanish into bleached skies. The ocean glitters with ice.
I shrug off my gown, step out of my slippers and stroll all the way down to the water. The air is chill, the moist ground beneath my ft supremely chilly. A small iceberg floats by and is quickly gone, sped on by an unseen present. I shiver. Little doubt about it, that is going to be chilly.
There is not any time to waste. With each ounce of braveness, I run, soar and leap into the air.
Seconds really feel like minutes.
Someplace to my proper is an inflatable boat and expedition crew, bundled up towards the coolness.
Mountains, icebergs, ice.
Then confusion as I’m going below.
A clanging fills my ears, the water so frigid, that I really feel immediately disoriented. Every little thing hurts, the chilly like a vice. It jolts me into motion.
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Surfacing quick, I swim with jagged strokes to the place a ladder strapped to a pontoon leads from the ocean as much as our ship, Atlas Ocean Voyages’ World Voyager. The 198-passenger vessel’s expedition workforce is standing by, able to lend a neoprene-gloved hand to hoist me out of the ocean.
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For the previous week, this spot has been our launching pad for adventures within the Zodiac inflatable boats. Kitted up in thermals and Atlas-issued lime inexperienced polar jackets, our small group of 10 has carved a white path by way of diamond seas, sure for icebergs, penguins and snow-covered islands. We have stared spellbound at crevassed glaciers larger than a suburb and spied seals dozing on ice floes.
This afternoon could be very totally different. One after the other, we verify off the most well liked ticket in Antarctica — plunging into the freezing 30-degree waters of the driest, highest continent on Earth.
Associated: The last word information to Atlas Ocean Voyages sailings
The last word ice bathtub
I am no stranger to ice baths and the well being advantages they carry, from lowering irritation to accelerating muscle restoration and switching off the “fight-flight” that may result in excessive cortisol and cussed fats.
I’ve braved Sydney’s Bondi Seaside in winter, taken common chilly showers and dived headlong into near-freezing waters on the North Pole — that one on a 15-day cruise aboard the brand new luxurious icebreaker, Le Commandant Charcot, from upscale line Ponant Cruises.
However nothing beats the heart-stopping chill of plunging into Antarctica’s waters in late spring — or the camaraderie of sharing the exhilarating second with 86 like-minded daredevils.
Only a week in the past, 138 of us set off to Antarctica on the nine-night maiden voyage of World Voyager — fast-growing Atlas Ocean Voyages’ third new ship in two years. Leaving Ushuaia, Argentina, behind, we met the roiling Drake Passage at peak shake, driving the churning 33-foot swell. Within the days that adopted, we staggered to obligatory security briefings, polar boot and jacket fittings and gala dinners.
The extra adventurous amongst us deliberate to kayak or camp in a single day within the continent, cosy in bivouac sleeping luggage designed to resist freezing temperatures. It is the form of luxurious that polar explorers of outdated, like Ernest Shackleton, might solely dream about. Each actions got here with a price ticket. The polar plunge was free and open to all.
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The bundled-up nature of the crew hints at simply how chilly it’s. BELINDA LUKSIC/FOR THE POINTS GUY
We moseyed across the South Shetland Islands, sidling into the flooded caldera of Deception Island. The lively volcanic defend had erupted twice within the late ’60s. At Pendulum Cove, the foundations of the Chilean analysis station had been all that remained. An outdated whaling station haunted Whaler’s Bay, our first sighting of penguins.
The spirit of expedition crusing
On the continent, the climate turned. Gale-force winds and heavy snowfall chased away blue skies and sunshine. Barrelling down the Gerlache Strait, we hit hurricane-strength 100-knot winds and a 16-foot swell. Wind-wracked, salt-lashed seas rose and fell.
On board, the tempest barely registered, ballasted as we had been by the ship’s twin Rolls-Royce stabilizers and the maneuvering of our Norwegian captain, Terje Ulset. I went to the health club and the sauna, watching the drama unfold by way of panoramic glass. At dinner, we lingered over cheese plates and dessert as waves rocked the ship. The Dome observatory lounge, on the highest deck, was our port in a storm for late-night cocktails and cabaret.
Because the wild climate continued, we pivoted. Landings had been shuffled, and plans scuttled. First, the kayak, after which the in a single day camp had been canceled. The polar plunge appeared set to undergo the identical destiny till day six dawned brilliant, white and promising.
The ultimate countdown
We chanced frostbite on Cuverville Island, snapping pictures of the lovable gentoo penguins waddling to the summit. Come afternoon, it was Shackleton’s destiny we tempted, powering by way of fractured pack ice to the touch the continent in lieu of a touchdown.
It wasn’t lengthy earlier than the plunge deck was readied. We waited within the lounge for our group to be known as, wearing matching robes and slippers as if at a day spa. A pod of humpbacks entertained us. I watched the crew herd icebergs within the Zodiacs.
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Passengers wait in robes to take a polar plunge. BELINDA LUKSIC/FOR THE POINTS GUY
Down within the mud room, the joy was contagious. There have been selfies and laughter. Folks shuffled alongside within the queue, returning dripping moist and grinning. A belt was mounted to my waist, a tethering rope clipped to it earlier than the soar. The ship’s physician stood by with a defibrillator (a precaution, I later found, hardly ever wanted).
World Voyager’s godmother, Harpreet Kaur “Preet” Chandi, had joined us in Ushuaia for the ship’s christening. Right here was a lady who had skied solo to the South Pole, a two-month quest the place winds howled and snow bit like sand. Did she have any phrases of knowledge to impart?
“Keep in mind to get pleasure from each second,” she shot again with a smile.
I am reminded of this as I stand dripping on the pontoon, the post-plunge excessive already kicking in. It wraps round me like a heat blanket as I do a victory lap onto the ship, cheers and applause ringing in my ear.
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