February 27th is International Polar Bear Day. Let’s celebrate by nearly killing ourselves with cold water.
Polar bears are among the coolest animal this planet has. They are giant, cuddly snow-dwelling beasts that can live in sub-zero temperatures, build their own shelters (it’s been posited that polar-dwelling humans learned to make igloos by watching polar bears), and have paws the size of manhole covers. Polar bears are also one of the only species on this planet that has humans on its roster of usual diet items. Although they prefer seals, muskox, and reindeer. It may be tempting to see polar bears as a menace, but it’s immensely difficult, as they are so damn cute. When they sleep, they tend to stick their rumps way up in the air. They look like big, cuddly puppies.
Polar bears are on the endangered species list (they are classified as “vulnerable”), and immense efforts have been made to save them and their habitat. Hence International Polar Bear Day, founded by Polar Bears International. It’s a worthy charity.
But in a world where The Ice Bucket Challenge can take the world by storm, and viral online videos are just as important as financial contributions, I posit the following way to celebrate: The good old-fashioned Polar Bear Plunge.
It’s likely you’ve heard of Polar Bear Plunges, or have even participated in one. In colder climates – areas of Canada, and more frequently Finland – Polar Bear Plunges are regular occurrences. They involve rising early – before dawn – and trekking down to your nearest body of water (In this author’s case, it would be the Pacific Ocean, although I think there may be some local swimming pools that host their own Plunges). Strip down to your skivvies – or even to the nude if you’re so inclined – and jump in the water. Do it quickly. The shock of the cold water is said to be immensely exhilarating. At the very least, you’ll be suddenly alert enough to skip your morning coffee.
In Finland, the ritual of the Polar Bear Plunge is even more extreme. They cut a hole in the ice of a frozen lake. They then spend an extended period, naked, in a sweltering sauna. When the time is right, and they feel like they’re about to pass out from the heat, they leap from the sauna and plunge directly into the frozen lake. Many call this an amazing experience. Some call it insanity. I withhold judgement until I have a chance to try it.
So here’s your job: Take a Polar Bear Plunge. Film it. Post it online. Tell people you’re doing it for the polar bears. Challenge others to do it too. And have them donate to help polar bears.
Because those adorable creatures deserve it.
Top Image: New Line Cinema