“Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,” so wrote Rudyard Kipling in 1892.
What was true in 1892 is increasingly being turned around in the 21st century. No one in the previous centuries could imagine swimming at the top or bottom of the world. If someone fell into the freezing waters around the North or South Poles, death was nearly a certainty.
But as the Antarctic ice shelf continues to fall into warming ocean waters and the human species continues to venture in colder and colder waters, where will the twain ultimately meet?
After Lynne Cox pioneered swimming in the Antarctic, others have followed:
2002: Lynne Cox (U.S.A.) was the first human to swim in Neko Harbor and in Antarctica without a wetsuit when she swam 1.2 miles in 2°C (35°F) waters in 25 minutes
2005: Lewis Pugh (U.K.) has swum 1 km in 0°C waters off Petermann Island and 1 mile in 2°C (35°F) waters near Deception Island in 30 minutes 30 seconds
2008: Ram Barkai (South Africa) swam 1 km at 70º south latitude, near Maitri, the Indian scientific research station in Antarctica, in Long Lake in 1°C (33.8°F) waters
2014: Ryan Stramrood, Ram Barkai and Kieron Palframan (South Africa) attempted an Ice mile in Neko Harbor in Antarctica in -1ºC (30.2ºF) waters
2014: Andrew Chin (South Africa) completed a 1 km swim while Toks Viviers and Gavin Pike completed an ice mile in Paradise Harbour in Antarctica in -1ºC (30.2ºF) water
2015: Bhakti Sharma (India) swam 1.4 miles in 41.14 minutes in 1ºC water in the Southern Ocean
2015: Lewis Pugh (U.K.) did The Five Swims in Antarctica for 1 Reason, a series of swims in waters between 0ºC and -1.7ºC in Campbell Island at 52º South, Cape Adare at 71º South, Cape Evans at 77.6º South, Bay of Whales at 78.5º South, and Peter 1 Island at 69º South
How many more will venture in the Southern Ocean over the next 100 years? How many will join Cox, Pugh, Barkai, Stramwood, Palframan, Chin and Sharma in the pantheon of cold water swimming during the next century?
Copyright © 2015 by World Open Water Swimming Association