'Ice Mermaid' Marks World First With Antarctic Swim

Barbara Hernandez swam nearly 1.6 miles in 35-degree water—longest swim yet in Southern Ocean
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 11, 2023 11:30 AM CST

The longest swim in the frigid Antarctic Ocean, aka the Southern Ocean, has been achieved, by a world-champion extreme swimmer from Chile known as the "Ice Mermaid." On Monday, Barbara Hernandez, 37, covered 2.5 kilometers (just under 1.6 miles) in Chile Bay, off of the Antarctic Peninsula's Greenwich Island, reports Swimming World. Hernandez achieved her feat in 45 minutes, 50 seconds, wearing nothing other than a standard swimsuit—i.e., no protective gear or even grease, which can help protect open-water swimmers from chafing.

Hernandez—who holds honors from Guinness World Records, including for finishing the fastest ocean mile swim through the Drake Passage—was supported by a Chilean naval ship. "I'm so happy and so relieved that it all went well," she says in a release. "Swimming in Antarctica has been a dream I've had for years, and part of my longtime ambition to swim in parts of all seven of the world's oceans." Per an interview last month with Pew Charitable Trusts, Hernandez said she began swimming at age 6, often in the chilly Pacific waters off the coast of her native Chile.

She listed her daily practice as a regimen of yoga, swims of up to 5 miles, and "psychological work." She noted that, before competitive cold-swims, athletes will "connect with nature in these extreme temperatures and respect and accept what nature wants to share with us." She also hopes her swims will bring awareness to conservation efforts. "The courage that Barbara has shown in undertaking this swim in the name of Antarctic Ocean protection is truly inspirational," says Claire Christian, head of the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition, in the release. (More Antarctica stories.)

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