Web Log Entry #0034, Saturday, January 18, 2003: Day 61
Anchorage Sunrise: 9:52am Sunset: 4:28pm High Temp: 34° Low Temp: 26°
Today, Stan and I drove to Seward to watch people throw themselves into the ocean. We almost didn't go; Friday night there was freezing rain and the roads were ice-coated and slick. Seward is over 120 miles away, and much of the drive is right along the Cook Inlet. Driving a narrow, slippery highway with a cliff on one side and ice-filled water on the other didn't sound like a fun adventure. So Stan drove. There were stretches of clear pavement, but most of the three-hour drive was on scraped snow and ice.
We arrived in Seward just before noon. We didn't know exactly where people were going to be throwing themselves into the ocean, but Seward is like Hood River, a small town tucked between water and the hills. We drove through town and followed the cars and pedestrians right to the dock.
Apparently this is a big thing here, as there were hundreds of people standing on the dock to watch. We managed to get obstructed-view positions behind the first couple rows, and waited. My favorite part happened during the half-hour wait for the event to start. The fire department rescue divers were hanging out in the water. They looked like sea lions, flippers waving above the surface, rolling and splashing about. If I had some fish, I would have thrown it to them.
Things got going promptly around 12:30 or so. The announcer (who might have been the mayor, or the guy who runs the hardware store, or both), would read the names. The festively-costumed jumpers would walk out and wave at the crowd. Some were excited to be there, others looked like the victims of severe peer-pressure. The brave ones moved to where the crowd had the best view, farthest from the ladders out of the water. They'd bask in their moment of limelight, letting the crowd admire their costumes, then hurl themselves into the water.
I don't know how cold the water was, I'd guess right between "Insanely Cold" and "Frozen." Even those who took their time jumping were quick to climb out. We were too far away to hear what they were saying, but their body language consistently said "Aauugh! That's COLD!" I tried not to feel smug about staying dry.
So they raised a bunch of money for charity and continued a time-honored Alaskan tradition of doing stupid things on a dare. We watched, then had lunch and drove home.
© 2003 Evan M. Nichols