In honor of the first day of the Endorphin open-water camp (it’s back into the James River for me), we note that this week’s (April 21) issue of The New Yorker magazine (unfortunately the story’s not online, at least not yet) features a piece by Lynne Cox about swimming in the Arctic.
“In 2002, wearing only a swimsuit, I swam for more than a mile in Antarctic waters of thirty-two degrees Fahrenheit. In the Arctic, water can be two or three degrees colder; still, I wanted to swim portions of the Northwest Passage, travelling from Greenland to Alaska, using Amundsen’s account of his journey as a guide.”
The water she swam in (in only a bathing suit) was in the 28-degree range. That’s Fahrenheit.
“An obvious concern was the extreme cold. The frigid temperature of the water could cause an incredible shock to my body, overstimulating the vagus nerve and causing my heart to stop beating. The cold could also cause my fingers and arms to become so numb that I wouldn’t be able to pull myself out of the water. I was also worried about the Greenland shark, which can be as long as twenty-one feet. An old friend, Adam Ravetch, who is a wildlife filmmaker, showed me footage he had captured of a Greenland shark. It was huge, but Adam told me…[w]hat I really needed to worry about…was the walrus.”
The James doesn’t sound so bad now, does it?