Is it possible to swim in Antarctica?

Can we finally have the Antarctic Olympic Games?
11 November 2021


Antarctica underwater.



Can you swim in the Antarctic ocean?


We contacted Antarctic marine biologist Huw Griffiths in order to ask him our burning questions about his experience of working in Antarctica. Sally Le Page asked him about if he's ever been swimming in the freezing cold sea.

Huw - The answer is I can't because actually we have rules against it at our stations, after we actually had an accident where somebody was killed by a leopard seal. Which is the not very fun answer. So this is someone who is snorkelling at the time, so we have scuba divers but they also used to do some snorkelling, and we now have to have lots of hours of seal watching before people enter the water and be really careful about how we do those kinds of things. But there still are in some research stations, mid-winter swims, and it's quite amazing that human bodies can cope with swimming for a fairly long period of time in that temperature of water, as long as they're sorted out properly when they get out and if you've prepared for it. I've paddled in Antarctica and I can tell you that it felt like pins and needles. It was the most horrible cold that I've ever felt. So beyond that, I don't know why anyone would go in any further than their ankles, to be honest, but if they want to do it, it is doable.

Sally - And mid-winter, it's pitch black as well. So not only is it freezing, you can't see anything. Not for me.

Huw - No.


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