Swimming In Antarctica: For the Adrenaline Junkies!

Swimming In Antarctica: For the Adrenaline Junkies!

February 5th, 2016 / Burnham Arlidge

Antarctica entices travelers from all over the world, each looking for a unique and unforgettable experience. Swimming in Antarctica is certainly one of them!

The natural beauty and array of activities on this icy continent are enough to indulge the senses of even the most avid traveler. It’s not often you get the chance to kayak next to enormous icebergs or be close enough to spot a whale from 100 feet away.

However, one activity that stands out from the rest is swimming in Antarctica. While many disregard the ‘swimsuit’ on the packing list itinerary as a joke, swimming in Antarctica has now become a tradition for the more adventurous traveler.

Although you won’t find many second timers, the thrill of jumping into near-freezing water provides an exhilarating adrenalin rush and is something you won’t forget in a hurry!

This short guide will help prepare you for all you need to know about swimming in Antarctica – both mentally and physically.

Swimming in Antarctica

The Polar Plunge

An optional extra with many tour operators, the polar plunge is the quickest way to wake yourself up after a big day of sightseeing.

The setting can vary from operator to operator, and often happens off the landing of the main ship, the side of a zodiac or sometimes from the shoreline.

However, the overall premise is the same- completely submerging your body into the freezing polar waters of Antarctica.

Most tour operators will give you plenty of warning in order to build the anticipation and allow passengers to get mentally prepared. When the time comes, those ready and willing, meet their fellow polar plungers on the deck to listen to the safety brief from the expedition leader.

Even though you will only be in the water for a few seconds, a safety rope is attached to each passenger as a precaution. One by one, travelers line up, walk the plank and take the plunge into the icy waters below!

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Deception Bay

If there was ever a place to swim in Antarctica, Deception Bay is it. A large flooded caldera, inside an active volcano, Deception island forms one of the safest naturally sheltered harbours in the world.

As you disembark the zodiac onto the black volcanic ash beach, you will you have plenty of time to explore the island and nervously await the swim ahead.

Once a thriving whaling operation, the island now boasts a glimpse of an era since passed with rotting boats, old run down buildings and decaying whale bones. It is also home to the largest Chin Strap Penguin Colony in the world, who will be there to cheer you on!

The swim occurs at the end of the day, so passengers can quickly get back to the warmth and comfort of the ship. As participants start mustering up the courage on the beach, the eerie and incredible view of the surrounding bay provides the perfect backdrop.

It is then time to take off the many thermal layers, brave the winds and make a mad dash for the water. The swim is over as quickly as it begins.

Travelers plunge into the icy water, then almost immediately, the race is on to get back to shore where the crew are waiting to hand over towels and warm drinks.

Swimming in Antarctica

How cold is the water?

While it may be the peak of summer, don’t let the sunshine fool you. Swimming in Antarctica is cold! Due to the high salt content, the freezing point is several degrees lower, guaranteeing you sub-zero, icy waters of around -2°C/ 28°F.

If you decide to take your swim in Deception Bay, you’re in luck; the water will be slightly warmer.

The island has a thermal vent due to the volcanic activity, and while you may see pockets of steam rising from the water, the surface temperature is still only 2°C/ 35°F!

Keeping this in mind, it won’t be a leisurely swim. Most brave participants are frantically looking for the exit as soon as their feet have hit the water!

What should I expect?

Nothing can prepare you for the first time you touch the cold, freezing waters of Antarctica.

The anticipation is built up for many days, and there is often a buzz around the ship about the upcoming swim. The crew will give you plenty of advice, get in and get straight back out!

The plunge into the icy water of Antarctica is a big shock to the system. Many have likened their first plunge to the feeling of knives on their skin and having their lungs squeezed.

You will be praying for a sunny day, as the worst part of the swim is getting out! But with a crowd cheering, icebergs as a backdrop and a hot spa waiting for you back on-board, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience you won’t want to miss!

Not to mention you will even get a certificate to prove to your friends and family that you’ve swum in Antarctica. Trust us, you’ll need the proof!

The Polar Plunge

Looking for more adventure?

If you prefer to spend a little more time in the water, another exciting activity for the daring is Scuba Diving in Antarctica.

Get up close and personal with the huge array of marine life, all in the comfort of a dry suit. You’ll never be short of things to see and do on your cruise. Antarctica truly is an extraordinary destination.

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Antarctica Guide do not sell tours, we simply provide impartial advice. If you would like an exact quote with our recommended specialist click Get a Quote.


If you would like to know any more about swimming in Antarctica then please just a comment below and we’ll get back to you within 24 hours. Alternatively, fill out our quote form to get a quote from our recommended operator.

Posted on Feb 05, 2016

About the Author Burnham Arlidge

Burnham started his career as a professional tennis player before retiring due to injury. Since then Burnham has thrown himself into adventure travel. He has visited some of the most iconic and obscure parts of the planet - his most memorable experience is Antarctica!

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