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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Ram Barkai, Zeroing In On The Extreme

Ram Barkai, the founder of the International Ice Swimming Association, backs up what he encourages others to do.

On March 25th in Jondal, Norway, Ram completed an incredible 1.3 km extreme swim in an ice-bound lake wearing only a Speedo, swim cap and goggles. His swim is part of a new series on Discovery HD, which will air in 200 locations towards the end of 2012.

Ram was escorted by his wife Nadine, the Discovery film crew and Professor Heather Berlin, a world-renowned neuroscientist who studies the mind-over-matter aspect of extreme cold-water swimming.

The team managed to locate a frozen-over lake 1000 meters above sea level. With the ice 15 cm thick in some places, Ram and his team used a fork-lift tractor to crack a large enough area for him to swim escorted by a safety boat.

Imagine that ... cracking the ice with construction equipment in order to swim...

"It was a completely surreal experience," said Ram, "The ice was thin enough in most places for me to crack it with my arms. My hands were frozen solid and totally useless in the ice-breaking exercise. Once I reached an open channel in the lake, I put my head down and started swimming. [But] I kept swimming into ice sheets. Luckily, I was so frozen that I didn’t feel a thing. This was the most disconcerting part of the swim."

But the surreal experience kept on getting more unbelievable. After swimming 1.3 km in four loops around the frozen lake, Ram had to abort the swim due to wakes from the escort boats shifting the ice sheets. "As I walked out of the late, I was covered with scratches all over my arms and legs. I couldn’t feel a thing. It was nothing serious, just fine surface scratches."

But then Ram's team shifted into overdrive to protect him from the after drop. Ram’s core body temperature dropped below 33˚C (91.4ºF) as Professor Berlin closely monitored Ram’s recovery.

Ram will undergo several physiological tests next month in London as a research subject, including spending time in a cryogenic chamber that is used to help top athletes recover damaged muscles, at a temperature of -130˚C.

Copyright © 2012 by Open Water Source

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