On Saturday about 100 Sitkans took a swim in the Sitka Channel without wet suits, dry suits, or survival suits, although one was person in a Santa suit. The fire department had pressure hosed the ramp to get rid of barnacles. Apparently cut feet are the biggest medical danger in this operation, and there were rescue divers off shore. I was covering the event for Raven Radio and before the event I asked the swimmers one simple question “Why?” Here is what I got:
“Why Not?” — “We’ll be leaving this summer so I figured this is our last Alaska hurrah.” — “This is part of being crazy in Sitka.”– “I was on the couch this morning thinking ‘it’s time to stop this,’ and she called and here I am.” — “Tradition (Singing from Fiddler on the roof) Tradition.” — “I don’t know, I’m not looking forward to it really.” — “You know, the winter months, you’re not doing much, you jump into cold water, you feel like you’ve done something with your day.” — “Tradition, and this year we brought our exchange student from Mexico here. This is going to be a new experience for her.” — “Yeah, yeah, I’m really scared but it’s something new. Exchange is for new things and this is a new experience.” — “It is our duty as an Alaskan to go into this water.”
And then she asks me “Why are you doing this?”
“I’m with Raven Radio.”
“Are you going in?”
“Are you kidding?”
Then Eric Jordan comes up to me.
“Do you remember when I took the mic in with me, live and my voice went up as the water went up.”
“So I’ve been expecting you to do the same in the interests of journalistic reporting and the tradition.”
I reply, “No, I have to maintain my journalistic objectivity, if I were a participant I could not objectively cover the report.”
At exactly high noon Eric, about 100 others dippers and one happy barking dog ran down the boat ramp into the water. They hit the water, got chest deep, made a quick turn and ran out toward the warming tent or the hot coco. As they dried off I asked a simple question. “How cold WAS it? The Answers:
“Oh Brother.” — “Really Cold, I can’t even talk.” — “I’ll tell you later, once I warm up.” — “This is pleasantly cool.” — “Very cold.” — ”Actually not that bad this year. It was nice and warm when you got out, I loved it.” — “You just jump in and jump out, and there’s a warming tent, how cush.” — “Icy Cold.” — “Really Cold.” — “It’s stinging cold, that’s how cold it is.” — “My hands were freezing.” — “I think it was warmer in the water than out here in the air today, with the wind, it was nice.”
Out of the water it was cold, wet, with a driving rain. They were into the water at noon, out at 12:02 and by 12:09 many were in warm cars lining up to leave the parking lot. Being a good journalist I stayed to check with the fire department. No causalities. “all good.” I was out of the parking lot at 12:14.