Traveler intern Daniel Bortz thought diving into the Chesapeake Bay in the dead of winter took guts, until he heard of Antarctica’s exclusive club.
In Baltimore, the Chesapeake Bay area marks a popular summer destination for tourists, sailors, and swimmers alike. Except one day of the year, hundreds line up along the shore to take a dip in a different fashion. People arrive in Star Wars costumes, some wear red hats and paint their skin blue like Smurfs, a few belong to “Team No Shrinkage,” and there’s always the occasional Samurai warrior — all in the dead of winter.
Baltimore’s annual Polar Bear Plunge never ceases to amaze me. As part of a fundraiser for Special Olympics Maryland, the state’s largest non-profit organization devoted to sports training and competition for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, the Plunge rounds up Marylanders in teams to gather at the Chesapeake Bay on a brisk January morning. Emerging from heated changing tents in whacky outfits, the crowd marches forward and, like a group of orchestrated penguins, they dive into the chilly depths, water temperature an estimated 40°F. Unfortunately, I can’t say I’ve taken part in this ritual. Since I can barely touch my toes in the prickly ocean water at the start of summer without running in the opposite direction, I figured I’m probably not tough enough to handle the Bay in January. Not to mention the Bay always seems to make its way onto the nation’s “dirty waters” list.
So you can probably image my amazement when I read about an Antarctica Nudist Club. There, on the highest, driest, coldest continent, a daring bunch doesn’t gawk at an average temperature of -50°C, they embrace it — sans clothes no less.
A conference held last week by the University of Tasmania, Australia addressed the subject, revealing visitors from all nationalities — though predominately Aussies and New Zealanders — take part in variations of the traditional “nudie run,” some taking laps around the block on a lost bet, others simply frolicking naked for fun. Former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark supposedly earned her membership before taking office.
Now that’s something Marylanders can’t compete with, despite their worthy efforts.
Read more about Antarctica’s quirks and culture on our Bus2Antarctica project, and watch our writer Andrew Evans take a swim — though clothed — in the continent’s waters.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
Photo: Courtesy of The Mercury