Swimming to Antarctica: Tales of a Long-Distance Swimmer

Patty Osborne

On the Labour Day weekend a friend and I jumped into a secluded lake on an island in B.C. and I thought of Lynne Cox, author of Swimming to Antarctica: Tales of a Long-Distance Swimmer (Harcourt) because the lake had been stirred up by wind and rain and was now freezing. We swam vigorously to get warm and I kept my head out of the water just like Cox did when she climbed off a ship and swam a mile to Antarctica (a lot of body heat can be lost out of the top of one’s head). This was as close as I wanted to get to the kind of swimming that Cox writes about, swimming in the coldest and most dangerous waters in the world in only a swimsuit, cap and goggles. She does this for a variety of reasons: for research (she sometimes swims with temperature probes attached to several parts of her body so scientists can record and analyze her body temperature), to set world records, and because “it’s there.” Whatever one thinks of risking one’s life and others’ lives to pursue weird personal goals, it’s interesting to read Cox’s detailed descriptions of what it feels like to be that cold. Later that evening when I was warm and cozy in the cabin, I wondered whether we would have been warmer if we, like Cox, had been wearing bathing suits.

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