Antarctic plunge like 'Waiheke in winter'

Last updated 20:24 29/12/2012

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Summer’s here, the perfect time for a quick dip - in Antarctica.

More than 30 staff and guests at Scott Base took the plunge into an icy man-made hole today.

Lesley McTurk was the first to test the chilly seawater, which freezes at a lower temperature than freshwater.

At -1.8 degrees Celsius, and with small ice-blocks floating in it, the 59-year-old of Waiheke Island said it was “excellent” and “very refreshing”.

“I swam around for a while. It was a little bit like swimming at Waiheke Island in winter.”

McTurk swam in a thermal stream at Deception Island off the Antarctic Peninsula in 2006, and said she was pleased to have swum on both sides of the continent.

The mini swimming pool was prepared with the aid of a hole-melter, usually used to create dive holes for research purposes, and a chainsaw.

Charlie Wilkinson, a University of Canterbury engineering student and Antarctic Youth Ambassador, said his polar plunge was “actually quite refreshing” and “a nice summer swim.”

The 21-year-old chose a skin-tight, midriff-baring, blue Lycra outfit from the Scott Base dress-up supply to wear as he "thought it would suit the occasion".

Deidre Coker, of the Royal New Zealand Air Force, is working at Scott Base as a communications operator this summer and got in with nothing but a safety harness on.

The 35-year-old said she was first introduced to the concept of naked polar swimming while working at the base 15 years ago.

“I’m pretty sure you didn’t get a certificate unless you went nude and dunked your head under,” she said.

Coker repeated the naked tradition today, along with a couple of other hardy Defence Force personnel.

Antarctica New Zealand programme support supervisor Simon Trotter said the polar plunge was an annual Scott Base tradition that went back a long time.

“It’s sort of like a rite of passage."

New Zealand Army plant operator Joe Kanongata'a, 24, jumped in three times.

"The third time was freezing. It was just starting to bite," he said.

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- The Nelson Mail

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