What it’s Like to Take the Polar Plunge in Antarctica

Written By: The Planet D

I didn’t want to do the polar plunge in Antarctica. I looked for every excuse leading up and during to our voyage to Antarctica trying to justify why it would be ok if I didn’t take the Polar Plunge.

It was in the back of my head the entire trip and it took nearly the entire trip before the moment finally arrived where they made the announcement over the intercom that it was time for the Polar Plunge.

Fear of the Polar Plunge Antarctica

The scenery was breathtaking before the Polar Plunge

When we got back from a beautiful morning of kayaking, we were told that after lunch we would be jumping into -.5 degree celsius water in Antarctica.

Instant panic set on my face and I told Dave that I was going to video the moment instead of doing it. “No problem,” he said. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do.

It was then that my mood changed. 

Antarctica had been the most incredible experience of our lives. We have never seen any landscape quite like it or had such memorable moments in all our travels.

We were both on a high each day and at this moment I was resenting the fact that the polar plunge was even offered. I didn’t feel adequate and I felt that I was letting myself down, but I still didn’t want to do it.

Dave put on his robe and swimsuit and we walked to the embarkation deck to stand in line. We were told that 40 people from the 107 passenger list had signed up.

As I stood in line, I listened to everyone talk and started to really feel low. I asked them their reasons for doing it and if they were nervous. As I felt the excitement and energy around us and saw the high on people’s faces as they one by one came out of the water, I decided at the last moment to go for it.

I raced back to our cabin, changed into my bathing suit and asked myself “What the Hell are you doing?”

Facing Your Fear

I was so terrified I had to go in backwards and I jumped before my cue

When the time came, I was terrified. 

I felt numb as Solan and Val (our kayaking guides from Quark Expeditions) put the tether around my waist. This water is cold and it can be dangerous.

A couple of minutes in freezing water without being saved will kill you, and Quark Expeditions wasn’t taking any chances. We were tethered to the boat and if anything happened, they could pull us back up.

I had thoughts race through my heads. Has anyone had a heart attack from this? Will I be able to swim? What if I jump in and instantly freeze and sink? I had no idea how I would react to the cold water. All I know is that my entire being was telling me. Don’t Jump.

I stepped onto the zodiac and was about to jump when Jamie (the photographer and expedition team member) yelled at me to wait a minute.

He had to fix something with his camera. I freaked out. I mustered up all my courage and needed to jump right now. 

I did a little scream and dance and as if Duncan (another amazing expedition team member) could read my mind, he lightheartedly said “I’ve never had anyone die from doing the polar plunge.” I heard those words and went for it.

I didn’t wait for Jamie’s signal and I jumped in before he could take a proper picture, but I had to go now or never.

What it Feels Like Jumping into Freezing Water

the polar plunge in antarctica

As I hit the freezing water, I instantly lost my breath. I felt panic and it felt like my lungs were being squeezed.

Most people popped out of the water and continued to swim towards the photographer Jamie sitting on a Zodiac 10 meters away. I, however, popped out and dog paddled my way back to the deck of the boat in a complete panic.

“Get me out of here” Was All I could think.

My ears plugged up, my muscles seized and my lungs felt like they were being squeezed.

I climbed out of that water so fast, that I barely remember the feeling of being in it.

Dave caught it all on film and my instant reaction after taking the plunge was “I didn’t like it! I didn’t like it!” When Dave asked me how it was, I replied “Terrible!”

Elation of Doing the Polar Plunge

Woo Hoo! A leap of faith! No Fear

At the same time, I felt invigorated and happy. I would have regret not taking the plunge for the rest of my life and I am so happy that I did it.

Dave was up next and he didn’t have any reservations or inhibitions.

He walked out to the “plank” Gave a yell to the camera and leapt in with style. He got a lot of air and plunged right into the ice waters with ease.

As soon as he popped out, he swam with grace to Jamie allowing for more photo opportunities, and swam back with some kick in his stroke.

I heard the guides behind me even comment on how strong and confident he was.

Reward for Jumping into Icy Waters

The place to be after the Polar Plunge…The Hot Tub!

After our jump, we were both feeling elated. We walked up to the Lido Deck for a dip in the hot tub and to share our excitement with fellow Polar Plungers.

Everyone was on a high after doing the Polar Plung and the ship was abuzz with energy. It is something that I highly recommend doing.

Young and old were taking the plunge and everybody who did it loved it!

Thanks Dave for being patient and supportive. And we have the certificate to prove it.


We jumped into the Antarctic Peninsula and did the Polar Plunge!

Check out Quark Expeditions for planning your own Antarctic Expedition.

Read Next

Travel Planning Resources

Looking to book your next trip? Why not use these resources that are tried and tested by yours truly.

Flights: Start planning your trip by finding the best flight deals on Skyscanner

Book your Hotel: Find the best prices on hotels with these two providers. If you are located in Europe use Booking.com and if you are anywhere else use TripAdvisor

Find Apartment Rentals: You will find the cheapest prices on apartment rentals with VRBO

Travel Insurance: Don't leave home without it. Here is what we recommend:

  • Allianz - Occasional Travelers.
  • Medjet - Global air medical transport and travel security.

Need more help planning your trip? Make sure to check out our Resources Page where we highlight all the great companies that we trust when we are traveling.

About The Planet D

Dave Bouskill and Debra Corbeil are the owners and founders of The Planet D. After traveling to 115 countries, on all 7 continents over the past 13 years they have become one of the foremost experts in travel. Being recognized as top travel bloggers and influencers by the likes of Forbes Magazine, the Society of American Travel Writers and USA Today has allowed them to become leaders in their field.

Leave a Comment

28 thoughts on “What it’s Like to Take the Polar Plunge in Antarctica”

  1. This is incredible! We are visiting Antarctica in January 2021 and cannot believe there is a polar bear plunge! We can’t wait to experience the post plunge excitement. You guys are awesome!

  2. If you’re worried about the polar plunge, make sure you’re one of the first to jump. A fearful brain will typically increase the perception of pain. Though on the flipside, watching passengers emerge from the gangway shivering, but adamant about how incredible it was, might be the encouragement you need to make the jump.

  3. Wow, this is such a great post. I love the fact that vacation should not be limited to you being comfortable and feeling safe, but really stretching yourself and even growing as a person. Keep it up!

  4. Antarctic Polar Plunge? No way Jose, no way! I truly admire your adventurous spirit and your “we will try anything crazy attitude”, but you would have had to put a few guns to my head to get me in -5 degree Celsius water. call me a coward, but no way. You two are amazing and I keep wondering what is next on your adventurous list. And I promise, whatever it is, to share your experience from my static computer desk.
    Thank you, and keep moving! I feel cold just by looking at the water.


    • You are definitely not a coward. It’s crazy to jump into that water. I think you are the sane one for not wanting to. It was fun and I’m glad we did it, but man, it was nuts! 🙂

  5. Hi Dave, Deb, and everyone else!

    These two are fearless! I was fortunate to meet them on our voyage to Antarctica and would like everyone to know just what a pleasure it is to travel with these two. Their passion and dedication for what they do is immense, their energy is catching, and they bring a whole new element to your Adventure! I cannot wait to see what they get up too next!

    • Aw Naomi, you are too kind. When it comes to fearless, I definitely wasn’t when it came to the Polar Plunge! But I am so glad that I did it. It was awesome traveling with you too and so very cool that we realized that we met way back in 2007 when you booked our flight to Cairo for the Tour d’Afrique in High Park’s Flight Centre. It is a very very small world.

  6. Deb, I think it’s so awesome that you did this! I don’t think I could handle it, I hate being cold more than almost anything. But like you said, no regrets.

    • I agree. I have always hated jumping into cold water, let alone water that is a half a degree below zero. Anymore and it would be solid ice. Yikes. It was too cold for my comfort. But then again, for anyone’s comfort. They say you can last 3 minutes in that water.

  7. Impressive! I would feel so much pressure about this too. I would be worried for months, and I probably wouldn’t go through with it 🙂

    • I was worried thinking about it too. I just about didn’t go through with it, but I am glad that I did. I don’t know if I’d do it again though, I really didn’t like the feeling. But then again, you never know.

  8. This gave me chills… both kinds! I love the sweet things you say about Dave, Deb! But seriously that’s so awesome you guys both did the plunge! What a beautiful scene for it and what a memorable experience. That must have been the BEST hot tubbing ever afterwards!

    • Thanks Laura. Dave is my rock. He supports me and never makes me feel guilty for being a wimp. He also inspired me to do more than I thought myself capable of, if it weren’t for him, I probably wouldn’t do half of the things I do. Hot tubbing was awesome, but the water wasn’t hot enough. However, what we loved about the Sea Spirit is that we had an open bar, so we could enjoy a beer afterwards to celebrate without worrying about our onboard account.

  9. Deb – don’t underestimate yourself – you are BOTH fearless…you just think about it more! But in the end – you both end up in the same place! Congrats!!

  10. Congrats on going through with it! I imagine that it must have been like standing on the edge of a platform before a bungy jump. It would be hard to take that leap! It always feels great when you get past your fears 🙂

    • It was hard to take that leap. I can attest. I have chickened out of a bungy jump. (this is Deb of course, not Dave) in Zambia. I just couldnt go through with it. This was a great step for me. I have a problem jumping off of things especially into cold water.

  11. HAHAHA Dave’s face is priceless in that second last picture. Deb you are so cute. How amazing that must have been…friggen cold…but AMAZING! Totally jealous. Can’t wait to get there myself. xx

    • Haha, so true eh. That water takes its toll on a person. I can’t believe Dave swam out to the zodiac. He made it look so easy. Even if his face says differently:)

    • That is the perfect explanation. Fight or flight. I’m not sure how I mustered the courage to jump in, I just sort of fell in the water where as Dave did a giant jump. The adrenaline rush afterwards was awesome. We were on a high the rest of the day.

    • It was with a lot of encouragement that made me jump in. I really didn’t want to, but I am so glad that i did. We jumped directly off the ship which is a very nice touch. I don’t think they would get nearly as many people running into the water from the shore and to be able to jump right in the middle of the bay with the possibility of whales and seals being in the water made it that much more adventurous. You’ll have to try the Polar Bear Plunge in Canada. It’s a pretty big deal here.