Taking the Plunge at Winter Carnival

As soon as I lined up behind the other students preparing to jump into the icy waters of Occom Pond, I began to regret my decision.

The Polar Bear Swim has always been on my bucket list, but now the idea of jumping into almost-freezing water seemed insane. My roommates and partners in this foolhardy escapade, Carissa Crawford ’14, Abby Cohen ’14, and I worked hard to keep from running away.

 

Thomas Wang
Thomas Wang ’16 takes the plunge into Occom Pond during the Winter Carnival Polar Bear Swim. (Photo by Eli Burakian ’00)
 

“It’s a Winter Carnival tradition,” said Cohen. “We have to do it.”

Surrounded by student volunteers dressed in flair, the three of us walked gingerly down the steps leading to the pond. Although it wasn’t a particularly cold day by Dartmouth standards—25 degrees—once we were instructed to remove our winter layers the temperature hit me. Clad only in my bathing suit, I jogged in place, trying to feel my toes.

Watching student after student jump into the chilly water only served to raise my level of concern. What was I thinking? But before my roommates and I had time to sprint out of the queue, we found ourselves at the front of the line, overlooking the swimming hole and the ladder out—which suddenly seemed far, far away.

“1-2-3,” hollered Crawford.

We hit the water and in an instant a burst of chilling cold cut through my body. The only thing in my mind was reaching that ladder. By the time I crossed the pool I was numb all over. Once out, the temperature hit me like a million stinging sparks. Running to our towels, my roommates and I exchanged soaking wet looks—then cracked up laughing. We were out! We had done it!