Monday, January 12, 2009

National Polar Bear Plunge 2009

On Saturday, the hike I was due to go on was cancelled because of icy rain expected early afternoon. Undaunted, I changed to Plan B and headed for Chesapeake Bay where the 4th Polar Bear Plunge in Chesapeake was taking place.
As I stepped from my car, the wind grabbed my scarf and my hands automatically plunged deep into my pockets. I headed for the sandy beach with my chin tucked in and came across a large group of cheerful people who were smiling and chatting away as though at a summer party. Edging past these mad characters, I spotted a large steaming urn and helped myself to a mugful of organic coffee and a homemade cookie which were both delicious.

Sipping and munching happily, I started to study these strange people more closely. There were some weird outfits and I also noticed an air of excitement about the place. These people were here to draw public and media attention to the issue of global warming and most had got sponsors to donate to the cause while others were here to be part of a powerful photo opportunity promoting a national event, .

Before the plunge, we listened to speeches from the organizer, a clean energy representative and Annapolis Senator Paul Pinsky. A small band played fitting songs but how they played their instruments was beyond me. I was standing with a thermal t-shirt, a fleece top and a ski jacket with a scarf and I was still frozen to the core. If I brought my hands out from my warm pockets, they actually started hurting after 2 minutes exposed to the icy winds. I'd started chatting to Barbara, who was there for the 2nd year and even though she was visibily cold, I didn't sense any apprehension or regret at turning out for a second year to plunge into icy water. She firmly believed in the message she was putting out there, as did every other person present.
The band sang a final song, 'Let's Go Swimming', and then once everyone had quickly shucked their clothing, they grouped on the beach. A countdown from 10 and then they dashed by to jump, leap, plunge, plop, saunter, totter or simply stand in the freezing waves.

Bloody mad, all of them, but what a noble throng. Not one person changed their mind and nearly everyone spent long arduous minutes making their point by staying in the water and splashing around. Balls were tossed and frisbees were skimmed and slowly they emerged back out to the beach and the cocoons of warm fluffy towels.

Barbara let her guard down for a fleeting second as I snapped her cold but glowing countenance.

This guy was the last one out and I was simply amazed that everyone emerged with smiles on their faces. Apparently, once the body gets over the shock of the cold, a numbness sets in, allowing people to smile and even laugh about their jaunt.
Laughs aside, these people got on local news and their numbers have been growing steadily each year. They wanted to make people aware of our planet's plight, and they wanted to make people listen. I heard, and who knows, maybe I'll join them next year.

1 comment:

Heideldy Deideldy said...

I have always wanted to do one of these plunges...perhaps someday I will!